Overarching legislation now seen as essential
BEIJING - The drafting of a nuclear energy law is high on the State Council's legislation agenda for this year as people raise questions about the safety of reactors following the nuclear crisis in Japan.
Work on the legislation is being seen as more "urgent" than it has been at any time since such a law was first proposed by the former premier Li Peng in 1984 as China started to plan its first civilian nuclear reactor, said an industry insider.
"The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will gather a team of drafters and a team of experts together to draft the law for review by the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office before passing it to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress," said the senior member of the China Nuclear Energy Association.
Zheng Yuhui, director of research and development at the association, told China Daily the legislation is categorized as being for "timely research and drafting" on the State Council's agenda.
Similar attempts were dropped twice, in 1984 and 2008, mainly due to differences of opinion between administrative bodies and lawmakers.
"However, the central government noticed the urgency and necessity this time after four experts submitted a plea requiring the drafting of the law in the wake of the Japanese incident," Zheng said, referring to the leak of nuclear material from the Fukushima nuclear power plant following the earthquake off Japan on March 11.
He added that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology had commissioned his association to undertake the drafting work, which is expected to be finished this year.
At the end of 2010, China had 13 functioning civilian nuclear reactors.
"We do have many regulations and management rules governing the industry but we still lack an overarching law to guarantee its sound development," Zheng said.
Many pro-nuclear energy experts said the proposed law is as essential as the "irreplaceable" energy itself.
Zheng said he believes the law will promote transparency in the industry and should include clauses that have been proven effective by past practice in other countries. He said such standard procedures as holding public hearings when deciding the location of new nuclear plants should be written into the legislation.
Insiders said the draft law will include rules governing the exploitation of uranium resources, the management of nuclear materials, facilities, technology and spent nuclear fuel and emergency management as well as damage compensation.
Wang Jiping, spokesman for the China Nuclear Engineering Group Co, declined to comment on Monday on what implications the proposed law might have for the operation of the company, which is the nation's largest involved in nuclear engineering and construction.