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Energy-Hungry China Plans to Accelerate Approvals for New Nuclear Reactors


The construction site of the No. 2 reactor at the Changjiang Nuclear Power Plant on Hainan Island, China, on Sept. 25, 2012

Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

The construction site of the No. 2 reactor at the Changjiang Nuclear Power Plant on Hainan Island, China, on Sept. 25, 2012

(Corrects gigawatt numbers in third paragraph.)

China slowed down the approval process for new nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster. Now it intends to speed things up again.

On Friday, China’s State Energy Commission met in Beijing to review energy forecasts and discuss safety considerations regarding nuclear power. According to a statement released on the commission’s website on Sunday, it now intends to expedite the approval process for new reactors in China.

In 2013, China approved the construction of just two new nuclear reactors, with a combined generating capacity of 2.1 gigawatts. This year, it intends to green-light another 8.6 GW of nuclear energy, according to an article in Monday’s state-run China Daily newspaper.

Currently, China has 20 nuclear power plants in operation, generating 1.2 percent of the country’s total energy. But China is also the nation constructing the most new nuclear reactors in the world.

In 2008, China’s nuclear power-generating capacity amounted to 3 percent of the global total. The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts that China will generate 19 percent of the world’s nuclear energy by 2035.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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