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Recent China research
|China Weekly: A China case study: Bottled water adds to food safety problems, 14 May 2013|
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|China Report Update: Food safety, 8 May 2013|
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China’s nuclear programme to resume. A huge IPO is in sight but the sector has limited prospects
China’s nuclear programme which was put on hold after the disaster at Fukushima in 2011 is expected to resume this year after State Council approval of new guidelines. The safety regulations, adopted after a year-long review, will underpin development of the industry which is being promoted to reduce dependence on coal and oil.
Scouting for uranium. Orders for Westinghouse AP 1000 technology will be confirmed. The country’s biggest nuclear power developer, China National Nuclear Power, formed last year in the restructuring of state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation, plans to raise US$27.3 billion to fund five projects through a government-approved IPO. China is scouting for additional uranium supplies; trial production is going ahead at the Azelik mine in Niger where China has a 37.2 per cent stake; other target supplier countries include Australia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Kazakhstan where Beijing recently signed an agreement to develop a 1,000 km high-speed train line.
Safety issues remain. But nuclear power will continue to play a limited role in energy supply. To start with, important safety issues remain unresolved. Some of the nuclear stations inspected during the review do not meet the specifications to withstand floods, let alone a tsunami such as the one that struck Japan. In addition, “some civil reactors and fuel cycle facilities do not meet new earthquake standards”, the review report says. These concerns are particularly important since many planned new plants would be in inland areas prone to both floods and earth tremors, including the Sichuan region round Chongqing.
Expansion plans. China has 13 nuclear plants in operation and 26 in different stages of construction. Total capacity at present is 10.2 GW, accounting for 1.9 per cent of total national power generation in 2010. All the stations in operation are in coastal regions or nearby – six in Zhejiang, five in Guangdong and two in Jiangsu. The regional pattern contrasts with the development of coal-fired power stations located in the mining regions of northern China and Inner Mongolia.
The plan before the disaster in Japan was to build anywhere from 28 to 52 more nuclear plants in sites including Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Jilin. Huaneng Nuclear Power Development is expected to start work on a 200 MW nuclear power plant at Rongcheng in Shandong, using fourth-generation technology for a high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor. Chinese media reports say the plant will use helium in its cooling system, and the reactor cores will be able to withstand extreme temperatures for several hundred hours without melting down.
Official caution. Though China aims to become the world's biggest producer of nuclear energy by 2020, the programme when fully developed will meet only 3-4 per cent of national energy demand. Wei Shaofeng, Deputy Director of the Electricity Council, told a recent conference that the target of 42.9 million kW of nuclear generation capacity by 2015 was unlikely to be met, and that the goal of 100 million kW of nuclear power generation by 2020 is likely to be reduced by 10 per cent. So nuclear will contribute to China’s insatiable demand for energy but is likely to take second place to gas in the bid to cut dependence on coal.