China currently has 15 nuclear reactors that account for just 1.8 percent of power. But there are another 26 reactors under construction that will add 30 gigawatts and the end of the moratorium opens the way for more.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Zhou Yun, Chinese nuclear security expert
ZHOU: China never changed its nuclear policy, even after Fukushima, since 04 China has been promoting nuclear energy very actively. So basically Fukushima and China suspend nuclear project approval, ut they just want to have a pause to re-think and re-evaluate the development pace and technical route.
COCHRANE: But that suspension has been lifted now on approval, is that just natural time passing, those checks have been done, or is there something else behind the lifting of it?
ZHOU: Right actually the did safety inspections after Fukushima. They released safety inspection reports back in June. So they work on readjusting the goal by 2020, so I mean a few weeks back they approved a new safety plan and also yesterday the State Council approved the new actual goal for 2020. So I think that's a signal that they're ready to approve more projects.
COCHRANE: Well tell us a bit more about what is being planned by the Chinese government in terms of nuclear energy?
ZHOU: Ok actually before China had a very small fleet of nuclear reactors, after '04 and they proposed 40 gigawatts by 2020, actually the development pace was much faster than what they expected, so the nuclear industry proposed 80 gigawatts by '08. But they never made the number official. I remember last year in March they almost made the number official but Fukushima happened, so they had to hold it back. So they kind of had to adjust the number. To be honest at this moment no official number, but I guess will be around probably 60, that's just my personal guess.
COCHRANE: Sixty new power plants is that?
ZHOU: Yes 60 gigawatts.
COCHRANE: 60 gigawatts, right, I have read that there are 160 different nuclear power plants that are in the approval or planning stages. Is that about what you understand as well?
ZHOU: Well actually right before Fukushima happened 16 reactor projects approved by the state council, but most of them are generation two design and now that the new safety plan came out and they promote generation three technology. So I'm not quite sure what's the status, but it seems like definitely China is pushing the new generation.
COCHRANE: Now that is an important shift from generation two designs to generation three. Can you explain the difference for us?
ZHOU: Ok the generation three actually really used the passive safety features, or actually is much safer than the generation two design.
COCHRANE: And how good are China's nuclear safety standards? How good are they thought to be?
ZHOU: Well actually at this moment China definitely keeps a perfect record in terms of nuclear safety, never had an accident bigger than level 2. Their regulations are standard, the rules actually, the system is in line with international standards. And I guess the news showed they are definitely going to make sure they keep in line with the newest regulations that came out after Fukushima. So I guess considering that part and they're definitely trying to catch up with other nuclear countries, and also the international organisations.