Japan leak sent nuclear industry reeling

By Liu Yiyu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-05-19 07:36:05

Japan's nuclear emergency of last year has left a mark on Chinese nuclear manufacturers, which have since seen billions of yuan worth of orders postponed, a senior industry official said.

"Work stalled on 14 of the 27 reactors that were under construction before Japan's nuclear emergency, causing orders worth 50 billion yuan ($7.9 billion) to be delayed," said Sui Yongbin, chief engineer of the China Machinery Industry Federation, an industrial organization that represents machinery manufacturers.

The country suspended giving approvals to nuclear projects for 14 months starting on March 16, 2011, in response to the nuclear leak that occurred at a Japanese nuclear plant following the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island country in the same month. Work on recently approved projects was also stalled to give the government time to conduct safety inspections.

Shanghai Electric Group Co Ltd, one of the three largest nuclear equipment makers in China, said it received no orders in 2011.

"China's nuclear industry was expanding too quickly before the nuclear crisis last year and that will ultimately end in diminished quality," Sui said.

The engineer also warned that Chinese nuclear manufacturers are now dealing with overcapacity as the world nuclear industry enters a trough, adding that strong competition already exists among Chinese manufacturers.

"Manufacturers can produce 20 pressure vessels every year and they are competing with each other by offering lower prices," Sui said. "In the meantime, we are still importing certain key components from foreign companies."

China can manufacture 12 nuclear reactors sets annually whereas the industry needs only 40 sets before 2020, according to Sui.

He predicted the government will resume approving new nuclear projects either at the end of this year or early next year and set a more manageable goal of having 60 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020.

Before Japan's nuclear crisis, many observers had expected that China would set a goal of having 80 gW of nuclear capacity by 2020.

Sui said the main type of nuclear reactor used in China will be the AP 1000, which was introduced by Westinghouse Electric Co in 2007.

China is now building four of the reactors, two in Sanmen, in Zhejiang province, and two in Haiyang, in Shandong province. The technology they rely on is considered to be third-generation, or Gen III.

Another two reactors, known as European Pressurized Reactors, are under construction in Taishan, Guangdong province.

(China Daily 05/19/2012 page9)

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