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China will soon resume the approval and construction of nuclear power plants, senior officials said during the plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee on Wednesday.
Wang Yuqing, former director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, said about 10 approved new nuclear plants, whose construction was put on hold last year after Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident, will soon be given permission to start construction.
"The halt will soon be lifted, as a comprehensive plan on nuclear safety control has been submitted to the State Council," said Wang, who is also the deputy director of the Committee of Population, Resources and Environment of the CPPCC National Committee.
China's nuclear equipment manufacturers are also eager for the suspension to be lifted.
"We hope the government can end the suspension soon because the industry cannot afford such radical changes," said a senior official from Dongfang Electric, one of the three largest nuclear equipment makers in China, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Dongfang was unable to get any orders in 2011 because of the suspension.
As the world's second-biggest oil consumer, China imported 250 million tons of crude oil, about 55 percent of all the oil it used, in 2011.
The 14 nuclear reactors in service in China now provide less than 2 percent of the country's electricity, much lower than the world's average level, which is 15 percent.
Zhang Guobao, former director of the National Energy Administration, said China needs to put major effort into developing nuclear power and new energy to ensure the country's energy security.
"China should become more self-reliant regarding energy. Wind and solar energy are also very important," Zhang said.
"The tragedy at Fukushima was a pity, but nuclear power's energy intensity is very high," said Zhang, as he stressed nuclear power is "very important" for China.
After the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant last year, the State Council announced on March 16 that it would suspend approval of nuclear plant construction and ordered safety inspections at all plants.
The authority declared no new programs would be approved until safety checks were made at nuclear plants under construction and in operation, and comprehensive nuclear safety guidelines were passed.
Zhang expressed his trust in the imported third generation nuclear technology AP 1000, developed by Westinghouse Electric in the United States.
"The introduction of AP 1000 has gone through careful review by the most authoritative Chinese nuclear experts. In addition, the US Regulatory Commission approved two nuclear plants in early February, including one in an inland area," he said, stressing that China will not be the testing ground for the AP 1000.
"By setting safety as the priority, making sure of powerful supervision, and improving our technology, China can develop nuclear energy safely," Zhang said. Wang said that the AP 1000 will become a major technology that will be used in China's new nuclear plants.
The central government has set a goal of having China obtain 11.4 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by the end of 2015, up from 8 percent now.
And by 2020, the country is to get 15 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources.
Liu Yiyu contributed to this story.
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