China plans to set up a strategic reserve of natural uranium to ensure that
the emphasis on nuclear power development is backed by a "stable and reliable"
The reserve will be built by "sparing no effort" in identifying and
exploiting domestic uranium deposits, while seeking international collaboration
at the same time, according to the latest national nuclear industry development
plan for years up to 2010.
Slightly more than 1 percent of China's total electricity needs are met by
nuclear power plants but this is set to surge to 4 percent by 2020, as the
country seeks to reduce its reliance on coal-fired, polluting plants, according
to official sources.
"Now that China is determined to substantially expand the share of nuclear
power in energy consumption, we need to improve our production capacity and
technology regarding the nuclear fuel cycle," an official with the China Atomic
Energy Authority said yesterday.
A nuclear fuel cycle starts with the mining of uranium and ends with the
disposal of nuclear waste with used fuel as an option for nuclear energy,
according to the World Nuclear Association.
"Toward that end, we must step up prospecting and excavation of uranium ores,
while conducting research on recycling of used fuel," the official, who
preferred not to be named, told China Daily.
The official declined to specify the amount of uranium China needs to process
to reach the anticipated nuclear power generation capacity of 40 gigawatts by
2020, or about five times the installed capacity in 2005.
But with the country planning to construct three nuclear power plants each
year over the next 10 years, the production capacity of various processes of the
nuclear fuel cycle will have to increase by four to six times by then, according
to the plan.
Key areas that would be scoured for natural uranium include the Yili Basin in
the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Northwest China and the Ordos Basin in
the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in North China, according to the national
The official said the State reserve, plus a system of commercial stockpiles
in enterprises, will take shape by 2010.
China will also seek natural uranium resources overseas, the plan says.
Over the past few years, China has imported uranium from countries such as
Australia and Niger in Africa, said Han Xiaoping, executive vice-president of
China5e.com, a top energy website in China.
The national plan also says the country will strive to push its research on
nuclear science closer to advanced global levels. It will also step up handling
of radioactive waste and phasing out old nuclear facilities to ensure the safety
of workers and the environment.