25 October 2012

Will Nuclear Construction Begin Again in China and at What Pace?

On the 24 October 2012 the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao announced at a State Council meeting, that China will “steadily return to normal construction” of new nuclear power plants, based on a “steady advance in an orderly manner”. However, no mention was made of when construction would restart, as since the Fukushima accident in March 2011, no new building site was opened and no new reactor was connected to the grid for the past 11 months. Importantly, it was also said that only Generation III+ reactors would be built and that only a small number of units will be approved before 2015 . On 23 October 2012, the Chinese Government’s White Paper on Energy was published. This re-confirmed China’s target to increase nuclear capacity to 40 GW by 2015, up from 12 GW today. However, this is only achievable if all of the 26 reactors currently under construction are completed on time. The Premier’s statement raises further doubts about China’s ability to meet its 2020 nuclear objectives of around 70 GW. Earlier in the week a report issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection suggested that China will have to spend around 80 billion yuan ($12.74 billion) by 2015 to upgrade the security of its nuclear facilities and radioactive contamination control to international standards.