China today launched a major scheme to expand its large network of nuclear power plants, brushing aside remarks by its atomic regulator that the new Chinese technology is still not completely up to standards.
The National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, yesterday announced plans to develop offshore nuclear power projects. Its spokesman Li Pumin assured that all projects will comply with the highest international security standards.
Head of National Energy Administration's nuclear power department, Liu Baohua, said efforts to draft administrative rules for nuclear power development have been heightened. Media reports have quoted Liu saying that China's under- construction third-generation reactors have problems with pumps and valves as well as with its inflexibility of design. He said efforts are on to resolve those problems but the overall situation is under control. He was apparently referring to the new 1000-MW reactors built by China in association U.S.-based Westinghouse. China has already committed to build two 1,100 MW nuclear power plants in Pakistan's Karachi city and extended $6.5 billion assistance to Islamabad.
There are currently 27 nuclear power plants under construction in China, placing it top in the world in the category. Official media reports have said China wants to build about 200 nuclear plants. However, nuclear energy contributes less than two percent of the country's power supply, far below the world average of 15 percent, officials say. The new scheme is expected to give a boost to nuclear power sector, driving high-end equipment production and optimising power generation in a country that largely depends on thermal power for electricity.
"The decision will help unleash the industry's potential," said Zhuang Huolin, chief engineer of China Nuclear Engineering Corp Ltd under industry giant China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp (CNECC).
The decision has been long coming for domestic nuclear power companies. China ceased issuing approvals for nuclear power projects following the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011. Domestic companies have since enhanced their capabilities and safety standards, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. China is expanding its nuclear power footprints in the world. It yesterday signed an an MoU with South Africa, signalling the establishment of an official partnership in nuclear fuel recycling. China also wants to have a civil nuclear cooperation with India. A joint statement issued after Chinese President Xi Jinping's India visit in September had said "the two sides will carry out bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy in line with their respective international commitments."