CHINA / National

Plan tackles nuclear emergencies
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-29 06:16

An emergency response system to deal with nuclear accidents and ensure the safety of nuclear facilities, including those in military use, will be in place during the next five years.

The system will operate at the national, provincial/municipal and power operator levels, according to a five-year plan (2006-10) of the National Co-ordinating Committee for Nuclear Emergency (NCCNE), which was approved yesterday.

Details will be released soon.

At least 10 technical support centres and four rescue teams will be set up nationwide to improve the ability to handle nuclear emergencies.

They will help in monitoring, radiation protection and decontamination, and environmental evaluation in emergencies including terrorist attacks.

NCCNE Director Sun Qin, also director of the National Atomic Energy Authority, said the plan was timely as the current response measures lag behind the development of the nuclear industry.

The country has 10 nuclear generators in commercial operation with a total capacity of about 8 million kilowatts. One generator with a capacity of 1.06 million kilowatts is in trial operation and eight others with a combined capacity of at least 7.3 million kilowatts are being built.

This year, two nuclear plants, each with two reactors, will be built in Northeast China's Liaoning Province and East China's Shandong Province.

NCCNE figures show that by 2020, the nation plans to increase the total capacity of nuclear power plants to 40 million kilowatts or 4 per cent of energy requirements, up from the current 2 per cent.

That means China needs to build another 20 or so 1-million-kilowatt units in 14 years.

Faced with such rapid development, a detailed and integrated emergency response system is needed as "safety is the lifeline of the nuclear industry," Sun said.

China unveiled guidelines on the management of nuclear power plants in 1986, and has set up a preliminary emergency response system for power plants.

The nation has a good safety record in the nuclear sector, with no operational accidents having taken place.

Sun said a tragedy such as the one at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine) in 1986 would not happen in China.

Nuclear reactors in China are heavy water reactors, which are safer in design, structure and operation than the graphite-moderated reactors or boiling water reactors used in Chernobyl, he said.

But Sun warned that the existing emergency response system is not adequate and does not cover military and other civil nuclear facilities such as research laboratories or storage facilities.

The plan urges that special attention be paid to military nuclear facilities, particularly by provinces where they are concentrated, such as Sichuan, Gansu and Liaoning.

(China Daily 06/29/2006 page1)