Nuclear power safer than ever: China

Nuclear power safer than ever: China
President Xi Jinping

CHINA - All Chinese nuclear power generating units have met, and even exceeded, global standards, a national industry safety official said in the runup to the country's restart of its nuclear power programme and the export of nuclear equipment and services.

The nuclear power industry has been operating safely for three decades in China, Guo Chengzhan, deputy director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, said on Wednesday.

On Thursday, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent their congratulations to China's nuclear leaders to mark the country's 60th anniversary in the field. They pledged that China would seek to heighten its nuclear technologies in an all-around way and seek to supply nuclear power facilities to a global market, Xinhua News Agency reported.

"China has encountered no major safety alarms since its first nuclear power plant began construction in 1985," Guo said.

Currently, China operates 22 nuclear power units and has another 26 under construction, the most units under construction in the world, he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency uses a seven-level rating scale for nuclear accidents, ranging from Level 1 - which includes accidents of little or no consequence - up to Level 7, major accidents such as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan in 2011.

"A Level 1 accident involves a security warning for technicians at a nuclear power plant; it has no influence on surrounding areas," said Tang Bo, a safety administration official. Tang added that, in the past 20 years, China has not seen any accident above Level 1, thanks to its rigorous nuclear security practices.

After the Fukushima incident, China suspended approvals of nuclear plant construction to revise its safety standards. Now the country is ready to restart some of its power plants, Guo said.

The national energy authorities have released a plan to change the country's energy mix to reduce coal consumption, with its unhealthy emissions, and to increase the use of alternative energy sources, including nuclear.

The capacity of existing nuclear power plants, including the restarts, will reach 58,000 megawatts by 2020, and the capacity of plants under construction will add around 30,000 megawatts, making total capacity roughly equivalent to that of the United States currently.

Addressing some residents' concerns about the safety of plants located in inland cities, Rong Jian, the administration's director in charge of nuclear power development, said the country's safety standards are high and meet or exceed international requirements, regardless of location.

Pan Ziqiang, a nuclear expert and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said China has achieved the world's highest nuclear safety standards, with decades of safe operations that are recognised internationally.

He said a law on nuclear safety is expected from the top legislature in 2016, a move to further ensure security.

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