China pledges billions for nuclear power
China, the world's second-largest energy consumer after the United States, will spend some 400 billion yuan (US$48.33 billion) on building new nuclear power plants by 2020.
The energy-hungry country intends to increase the amount of installed nuclear power capacity from the current 16 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts - or 4 per cent of the total installed capacity - within 15 years, Kang Rixin, president of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), said.
Nuclear power generation is expected to triple to reach 60 gigawatts by that time, or 6 per cent of the country's total electricity output from the current 2.3 per cent, according to Kang.
To reach this rather ambitious goal, the country "should build another 30 or so 1-gigawatt (GW) units in China," according to the president of the country's largest nuclear reactor builder.
These greenhouse-gas-free power plants will be focused in the populous south and east provinces such as Fujian and Zhejiang, which are short on the hydrocarbons that fuel power plants in the north and west.
Nuclear power plant generation has so far reached 13 per cent of the total power generation mix in Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, Kang said.
The country currently has 19 reactors in operation, under construction or with the central government's final approval.
Two under-construction reactors in Tianwan, Jiangsu Province, which use Russian technology, are expected to go on line by the end of this year and the beginning of next year. said the CNNC president.
The company will soon make a final decision over a US$8-billion contract to build four nuclear reactors at Sanmen of Zhejiang Province and in Yangjiang of Guangdong, said Kang.
Framatome ANP, a venture between France's Areva SA and Germany's Siemens AG, British Nuclear Fuels Plc's Westinghouse Electric Co and Russia's AtomStroyExport are bidding for the projects.
"We are still analyzing the bids and have some issues to clarify including technical levels, technology transfer and pricing, which are quite sensitive," Kang said. "We hope to make a decision as soon as possible."
Fu Manchang, secretary-general of the China Nuclear Society, earlier last month said the final result will be expected as early as in October.
As well as the four reactors that are still in the bidding process, another four will start construction in the foreseeable future as the extension of the current Qinshan and Ling'Ao nuclear power projects in Zhejiang and Guangdong.
The two 600-megawatt reactors for the extension projects of the Qinshan phase II will start building infrastructure from March next year, according to Kang. Another two 1-gigawatt reactors at Ling'Ao will also soon begin construction.
Yet this ambitious expansion by 2020 may just be a start. There could be room for further expansion after 2020, Kang said.
"Four per cent is not an ultimate goal, it is a temporary goal," he said.
To promote self-reliance in nuclear power technology, CNNC is currently developing a new form of reactor technology, known as CNP 1,000, which will be applied to future projects, Kang said.
A design of a prototype for the reactor may be ready by the end of this year, he said.