China has lifted a ban on new nuclear power stations imposed after Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster last year, but it will only approve projects proposed for coastal areas, the government said.
A “small number” of coastal nuclear power plants will be allowed before 2015, a statement issued by China’s State Council said following its meeting on Wednesday that also revised down targets for new atomic capacity.
Seeking to allay safety fears, the State Council said that all new nuclear plants would be constructed according to “third-generation safety standards,” which apply to the most recent generation of nuclear reactors.
The ban on approvals of inland nuclear power plants is likely to halt the construction of three proposed projects, local media said.
The Pengze nuclear power plant in Jiangxi Province, the Dafan plant in Hubei Province and the Taohuajiang plant in Hunan Province, all in central China, will be “severely hit” by the ban, the state-run Economic Reference newspaper reported.
The Pengze plant was loudly protested by local officials in neighboring Anhui Province in February, who said that building the plant in an earthquake-prone area would endanger residents.
China has 15 operational commercial nuclear reactors and it had ambitious plans to expand its nuclear industry, with 27 reactors under construction near coastal areas, according to the World Nuclear Association.
China reduced its total nuclear energy capacity target on Wednesday to 40 gigawatts by 2015, according to a white paper released by China’s State Council, down from a previous government target of 50 gigawatts. The paper stated that China had never experienced a serious nuclear incident and that authorities had carried out “comprehensive safety inspections ... which showed that nuclear security is guaranteed in China.”
Global fears about nuclear safety increased following a series of nuclear meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in March last year.
The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a report last month that the country’s nuclear safety situation was “not optimistic,” and that the use of differing types of reactors in Chinese plants made the sector “difficult to manage.”