Business / Economy

Nuclear plants to get the nod

By ZHAO YINAN and DU JUAN (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-21 04:31

China is quickening its approvals for nuclear energy and will launch projects in coastal areas to ensure energy security and economic growth, according to the State Energy Commission.

In a statement released on Sunday, the commission said it discussed strategic problems in the development of the energy resources industry as well as some major projects.

The launch of new projects will resume at the proper time and will adopt the highest international safety standards, according to the commission, which met on Friday.

The latest approvals of nuclear plants and other energy projects are part of the government's plan to push economic growth with minimal measures.

As the fastest-growing atomic energy nation, China will launch another 8.6GW of capacity for nuclear power this year, according to the National Energy Administration.

That is in stark contrast to the two reactors with 2.1GW of capacity approved in 2013.

Even so, experts argue that the country's reliance on nuclear power is still small. Its 20 reactors in operation contributed only 1.2 percent of the country's energy use in 2013, much lower than the world's average of 9.8 percent.

Lin Boqiang, director of the Xiamen-based China Center for Energy Economic Research, said the central government has sent a clear signal that it is hastening the approval process of nuclear plants, which can increase clean power generation.

Considering that wind and solar power still account for a small percentage of the country's power generation, nuclear power is the most effective choice for China, said Lin.

At Friday's meeting, the commission also announced its intention to start other energy projects including "reasonable" hydropower projects, if environmental protection and resident resettlement can be ensured.

Ultrahigh-voltage power transmission lines were also included in the plan this year. After completion, this technology — which refers to 1,000 kV or (1 million volts) A/C and 800 kV D/C transmission — can transmit a large capacity of power from western provinces to energy-consuming areas in the east.

Zhang Zhengling, deputy director of the State Grid's development and planning department, has said the lines are a way to optimize the distribution system, increase the efficient use of clean energy and improve the eco-environment in central and eastern China.

As of January, China had completed the construction of five ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines. Two more had been submitted for approval and another six were in the works.

The measure is also considered effective for combating smog in major cities as it allows long-distance transmission of electricity instead of coal.

Lin from the energy research center said China's energy reform is focused on sustainable development that can ease environmental problems and improve air quality.

"That will lead to the reform of clean energy development and reduce the percentage of coal in the primary energy consumption mix," he said.

"Coal consumption will not decrease in China because of its huge consumption base, but its share in the total energy consumption is reducing year by year," Lin said.

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