China will start constructing five nuclear power plants (NPPs) this year, part of an effort to dramatically expand its nuclear power capacity by 2020, officials said Monday.
The five NPPs will be located in Sanmen in Zhejiang province, Haiyang and Rongcheng in Shandong province, Taishan in Guangdong province, and Changjiang in Hainan province, Sun Qin, vice-minister of the National Energy Administration, said, without revealing the total costs.
"The first unit of Sanmen NPP started construction on Sunday and signaled China's nuclear power industry has sped up," Sun said.
The Sanmen and Haiyang NPPs use Generation III AP-1000 technologies imported from American firm Westinghouse, which is safer than the previous generation reactors, Sun said.
The five plants will add to the 11 nuclear power units in operation, producing 2 percent of China's electricity and the 24 units under construction.
"China has the largest number of NPPs under construction," Wang Yiren, secretary-general of China Atomic Energy Authority, said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said six of the 10 nuclear power reactors that started construction last year were in China.
ElBaradei said that the IAEA supports China's nuclear power development, but nuclear safety must be emphasized.
Chen Qiufa, vice-minister of industry and information technology, said China would make sure the plants are safe.
China plans to increase its nuclear power capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2020, accounting for 4 percent of the nation's total power capacity.
The government is also considering revising the target, as earlier reports said the country aims at a nuclear power capacity of 60 gigawatts by 2020, a 50 percent jump from the earlier target.
The move could help China reduce its dependence on fossil fuel and minimize harmful effects on the environment, Wang said.
Li Ganjie, vice-minister of environmental protection, said yesterday that the 11 nuclear power units in operation has cut the emission of 53 million tons of carbon dioxide.
But at present, China produces only 2 percent of the nuclear power in the world. More than half of the world's nuclear power is produced and used in three developed countries - Japan, the United States and France, according to IAEA.