The Chinese government is set to resume approvals for the construction of coastal nuclear power plants, having suspended approvals and licensing for all new reactor projects in 2011.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced plans on 4 December for the development of unspecified nuclear power plant projects along China's eastern coast. NDRC secretary general Li Pumin said that construction of the plants would be carried out under strict safety protocols.
Just days after the Fukushima accident in Japan in March 2011, China's State Council decided to halt approvals and licensing for new reactors until a safety plan was in place and there was assurance that existing plants were adequately designed, sited, protected and managed. It also suspended work on four approved units - Fuqing units 4, 5 and 6, and Yangjiang unit 4 - due to start construction in 2011. The Shandong Shidaowan HTR-PM project, although ready for first concrete, was also delayed. Power generation continued at reactors in operation at the time, as did construction of the 25 units then approved.
In October 2012, premier Wen Jiabao announced that China would "steadily return to normal construction" of new nuclear power plants, based on a "steady advance in an orderly manner". The construction of previously approved projects began shortly afterwards.
Officially covering the period 2011-15, China's 12th Five Year Plan calls for a "small number" of nuclear projects to be approved each year after full discussion. With only coastal plants being approved, significant rescheduling has been made for inland projects at Taohuajiang, Xianning and Pengze, which had previously been expected to start construction before 2015.
In April, premier Li Keqiang said that a number of projects will be launched "to improve energy security capabilities." Included in these will be the "timely launch" of new nuclear power plant construction projects in China's eastern coastal region. The country has a nuclear capacity target for 2020 of 58 GWe in operation and 30 GWe under construction.
According to National Energy Board secretary Liu Baohua, the development of nuclear power projects will be open to private investment. Previously, he noted, it has mainly relied on state capital.
China currently has 21 nuclear power reactors in operation with a combined capacity of 19,095 MWe. A further 27 units, with a combined capacity of almost 30,000 MWe are under construction.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News