One year on from the tsunami that so devestatingly struck Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station, a Chinese official has given the strongest hint to date that China will soon resume its own nuclear power program. Ren Junsheng, a nuclear safety expert at China’s Ministry of Environment Protection, told a conference in Hong Kong marking the first anniversary of the Fukushima accident that “the Chinese nuclear industry still feels confident to meet the installed capacity targets of 40 million and 70 million kilowatts by 2015 and 2020 respectively”.
Ren’s comments follow those by Huang Wei, China’s deputy envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who says that China had taken a series of measures to enhance nuclear safety, including safety management, in the wake of the Fukushima accident. At an IAEA meeting earlier this month, Wei said China now has 15 nuclear units in operation and 26 units in construction. Preliminary results released after comprehensive examinations ended last August showed the safety of these units were guaranteed, he said. Not, we pray, famous last words.
In January, Wang Binghua, board chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., said that China’s first AP1000 nuclear power reactor, the Sanmen plant in Zhejiang, is expected to come into operation in 2013. That had been the clearest indication to date that China was planning to restart its nuclear power program. Ren and Wei’s comments suggest that the State Council’s review of China’s new nuclear safety proposals and the development program for the country’s ambitious nuclear program is imminent. Once the State Council has signed off, work will resume.
Beijing will issue only 240,000 new car registrations next year in an attempt to tackle the city’s chronic traffic congestion, such as shown by the snapshot of Google’s traffic map (right) for Tuesday evening’s rush hour; traffic jams in dark red. The new number is less than a third of the 760,000 new cars registered this year, which has taken the number of cars on the capital’s roads to more than 4.7 million — up from less than 1 million 15 years ago.
Eighty-eight per cent of new 2011 plates are being reserved for private cars. They will be allocated by lottery. Beijing residents have been rushing to buy and register new vehicles before the new regulations come into effect at the end of this week, with 50,000 cars reportedly sold so far this month, almost six times December 2009’s sales. This panic buying has led to Huang Wei, the vice-mayor in charge of transport since 2008, being transferred to a new job in Xinjiang, according to the Financial Times.
The new regulations apply to first-time car buyers. Drivers replacing a vehicle are exempt, so the measure along with higher parking charges in the city centre from April, a restriction to one car registration per person and banning cars without Beijing licences from driving within the 5th Ring Road in rush hours, will likely do no more than slow the worsening of the traffic jams. As Liu Zhi, who leads the World Bank’s infrastructure team in Beijing, argues, city authorities are going to have to take far more drastic action to cut the demand for car use, which is the prerequisite for easing the overcrowding on the roads. That means turning talk of significantly heavier investment in public transport into reality.