As the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dallchi nuclear power plant in Japan continues to unfold, many countries are looking to shut down their nuclear power initiatives.
China is not one such country.
Despite the growing worldwide concern for nuclear plants, China is very unlikely to shut down its current nuclear industry expansion plan.
The recently retired director of China’s National Energy Bureau, Zhang Guobao, does not think the Fukushima incident will impact China’s nuclear energy plan.
He stated at a seminar on March 24th, “The accident will impact nuclear development worldwide, but in my opinion, it will not influence China’s overall strategies.”
How could he think this?
China was concerned when the Fukushima crisis first occurred.
On March 16th, China’s State Council, or cabinet, responded to the crisis by demanding every nuclear power facility’s safety to be heavily scrutinized.
The 13 operating nuclear stations and all those under construction would undergo intensive inspecption.
These thorough safety inspections are expected to last well into the year.
The State Council also announced suspension on approval of any new nuclear power stations until the current safety standards have been revised.
And Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao ordered a national plan on nuclear safety to be immediately drafted.
So is the retiree out of touch with China’s energy strategies?
Simply put, no.
Zhang Guobao knows China has much to lose by completely shutting down nuclear projects, especially those currently under construction.
China’s State Council announced suspension on new plans, but he did not say anything about plans already approved, nor did he say how long the suspension would last.
The president of Nuclear Society, Li Guanxing, believes the suspension on new approvals would slow down nuclear construction, but not stop construction.
He stated, “I think it is likely that no new projects will be approved this year, though there is no specific timeframe. They are now making thorough safety checks, and they are expected to last until the end of the year.”
So although suspension on plans will definitely impact China’s nuclear power production in the next year it will not hinder its growth in the long run.
Did China Miss Japan’s Lesson?
Abandoning nuclear power is not a viable option for China if the powerhouse wants a shot at meeting its ambitious energy goals.
Nuclear power was and remains a vital part of China’s energy plans—plans that need to be fulfilled in order to decrease carbon emissions.
Presently, China is the world’s largest carbon emitter. The proposed plans—which heavily rely on nuclear power plants—promise to decrease carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45% by 2020.
The new nuclear reactors will not only cut carbon emission, but also decrease emissions of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide.
This goal cannot be reached without the massive development of nuclear power (in addition to wind and solar power).
By carrying out these plans, China is committed to raising non-fossil fuels to 15% of its total energy.
The 13 operating nuclear power plants and 27 new reactors already underway will help China reach its projected 15%.
China has been building nuclear reactors faster than any other country.
The central government has fast-tracked projects in the past two years.
There are more than 150 nuclear projects that were approved that have yet to begin construction.
Nuclear power projects in China represent 60% of all new nuclear power plant construction worldwide.
At the very least, the Fukushima crisis scared the Chinese into slowing down its nuclear production and auditing its safety.
But, in the long run, China will still look to nuclear power to fix its energy supply issues.
Until next time,