China lifts nuclear moratorium

In a white paper released yesterday at an executive meeting of China’s state council, chaired by Premier, Wen Jiabao, two programs – the national plan for nuclear power security (2011-20) and nuclear power development (2011-20) – were approved.

In a translation of the paper on the government’s authorized news portal, China.org.cn it was said that the Chinese government aims to have 40 GW of installed nuclear capacity by 2015, in order to help meet its CO2 emission reduction targets of 40 to 45% by 2020 and increasing energy demands, and to lower its dependence on imported oil. Currently, nuclear is said to account for just 1.8% of the country’s electricity mix.

While it has been said that new nuclear power plants will only be located in coastal areas, the Oriental Morning Post has reported that several inland provinces, including Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Henan and Sichuan, have announced plans to construct nuclear plants.

Referring to the moratorium, the white paper said China had carried out "comprehensive" safety inspections and was now satisfied that nuclear safety could be "guaranteed".

In addition to discussing its nuclear plans, Wen Jiabao also confirmed China’s goal of installing more than 21 GW of solar energy by 2015, under the country’s 12th five year plan. Specifically, the white paper said that large-scale photovoltaic plants will be built in the Qinghai and Gansu provinces, and in the Xinjiang Uygur and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions.

Furthermore, the central and eastern regions will be encouraged to construct distributed photovoltaic power generation systems linked to local buildings.

Overall, the plan is to increase the installed capacity of non-fossil fuels by 30% by the end of the 12th plan.