Ten nuclear reactors to use top technology

By Xiao Wan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-06 09:21
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BEIJING - China, which is currently building the largest number of nuclear power stations worldwide, is expected to use one of the most advanced technologies for constructing 10 of its nuclear reactors, an energy official said on Monday.

The technology, called AP1000 from US-based nuclear power company Westinghouse, is a third-generation nuclear system. Compared with other reactors already in use in China, those using the third-generation technology are considered to be safer and able to operate longer.

The AP1000 technology will be used on six reactors at three inland nuclear plants in Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi provinces - the country's first batch of inland nuclear power projects.

The technology will also be applied for two pairs of reactors, one in Sanmen in coastal Zhejiang province, and the other in Haiyang, Shandong province, said the official who did not want to be named because of security issues.

Future inland projects are also set to use the same technology and Chinese authorities are considering the AP1000 as a standard, he said.

"The technology will upgrade China's nuclear power industry, which is seeing its fastest development now," the official said.

Construction of the projects will need final approval from the central government, he said.

The plan to use advanced technology for more nuclear reactors is in line with the rapid development of the country's nuclear power sector, analysts said.

"The country's nuclear power industry has seen accelerated growth since 2005, as it fits well with the country's objective to build an environmentally friendly economy," said Lin Boqiang, a professor at Xiamen University.

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As the world's second-largest energy consumer, China now has 11 nuclear power reactors in operation. These reactors have a total capacity of 9.1 gigawatts (gW), accounting for about 1 percent of the country's total power capacity.

The country has three nuclear power bases: Qinshan in Zhejiang province, Daya Bay in Guangdong province and Tianwan in Jiangsu province.

China plans to increase its nuclear power capacity to 70 gW to 80 gW in 2020, which will account for 5 percent of its total power capacity, officials with the National Energy Administration said.

The development of nuclear power will also be highlighted in the coming 12th Five-Year (2011-2015) Plan for the country's energy industry, industry insiders said.

"The move to further develop nuclear power is integral for China to achieve its goals in energy conservation and emission control," said Li Junfeng, deputy director-general of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner.

China is currently building 23 nuclear power units. The proportion of nuclear power is expected to account for 15 percent of the country's total power capacity in 2050, industry sources said.

Still, the security of nuclear plants has been a source of public concern recently.

Last month, the Hong Kong media reported a radiation leak at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant on May 23.

But officials at the plant later said that no radiation leakage occurred at the nuclear station in May, citing continuous environmental monitoring of radioactivity levels on the premise and in surrounding areas.

The company later admitted that a fuel rod at the plant experienced a "very small leakage" on May 23, leading to a slight increase in radioactivity levels in cooling water for the Unit 2 nuclear reactor.