Flood risks may delay inland nuclear project

Updated: 2011-05-12 16:36
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WUHAN -- Construction of China's first inland nuclear power station might be postponed for further evaluation of flood risks as Japan's nuclear crisis has prompted calls for greater precautions, experts say.

The 60-billion-yuan ($9 billion) nuclear program in Xianning city of central China's Hubei province, which is still in a pre-construction stage, was previously scheduled to be completed in 2015, according to Hubei Nuclear Power Co Ltd, the power station's owner.

The Xianning nuclear program is the first of the three nuclear power stations scheduled to be built in Hubei province.

However, it is likely the construction of the nuclear power station will be put off as Hubei is a flood prone area through which China's Yangtze River runs, said Fan Mingwu, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of Hubei Association for Scicence and Technology.

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China operates six nuclear power plants, which are all located along the country's eastern and southern coasts.

China has approved the construction of 28 more nuclear power reactors, some of which will be located in inland areas, to meet rising demand for clean energy and accelerate industrial development.

However, the rapid expansion of China's nuclear power projects has prompted safety concerns, especially after Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which caused a tremendous ecological disaster.

China has ordered a comprehensive safety check upon its nuclear power stations, including those under construction.

Also, the State Council, or Chinese cabinet, suspended all new nuclear power plants, including pre-construction works, until the revised safety standards are approved.

Tian Yaping, vice general manager with the Hubei Energy Group Co Ltd, pointed out that frequent flooding makes it imperative to adapt advanced methods from other countries to beef up flood-resistance capacity in the construction of nuclear power stations.

An official involved in the safety check said the flood resistance of nuclear power stations under construction will be on par with earthquake resistance.

Liu Jingquan, a nuclear professor at the Tsinghua University, says flood resistance capacity is the most important issue in the early period of nuclear power station construction.

"The geologic conditions as to flood and earthquake resistance must be given full thought in choosing the site for a nuclear power station," Liu said.

A flood-submerged nuclear power station will not only cause immense economic losses, but also bring major threats of radioactivity, Liu added.