China Halts Approval of Nuclear Projects In Wake of Japan Reactor Disaster

China has suspended approval of new nuclear projects and will conduct safety inspections of all nuclear power plants under construction in the wake of the radiation leaks in Japan, the State Council said.

“Approvals of new plants will be suspended including those in the pre-development phase until safety and improved long-term development plans are cleared,” the council said after a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. The country’s nuclear power plants are all operating safely, the statement said.

China has about 13 operational nuclear power reactors and is building more than 25, according to a report on the World Nuclear Association’s website. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, facing a nation reeling from its strongest earthquake on record, said yesterday the danger of further radiation leaks has increased at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi, 135 miles north of Tokyo, which has six reactors.

“We must fully understand the urgency and importance of nuclear safety and prioritize it in the development of nuclear power,” the State Council said in the statement. China plans additional reactors to provide more than a 10-fold increase in atomic capacity by 2020, according to the World Nuclear Association’s the report shows.

The magnitude-9 earthquake the struck Japan March 11 left hundreds of thousands stranded and without power, with disruptions to food and water. Hundreds of cars streamed south from devastated areas as a few dozen technicians battled to contain fires and radiation leaks at the nuclear power station.

‘No Impact’

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said a reactor containment vessel may have been breached at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant, deepening Japan’s nuclear crisis and increasing the risks of radioactive leaks.

“The nuclear accident won’t have any serious impact on China’s nuclear industry and we won’t alter our long-term development plans,” China National Nuclear Corp. President Sun Qin said in an interview in Beijing on March 14.

China is relying on alternative energy sources such as nuclear power as it tries to sustain growth and minimize environmental damage. The nation wants at least 15 percent of its energy mix to come from non-fossil fuels by 2020 and is building more atomic plants to help meet that goal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put plans to extend the life of Germany’s reactors on hold for three months while the implications of events at Fukushima are examined. The British government ordered a review of nuclear safety, and Swiss policy makers put projects to renew three of their country’s five nuclear power stations on hold, the Environment Ministry said on March 14 in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

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