China’s Nuclear Safety Review Impact Will Be ‘Small,’ Energy Official Says

China’s safety review of its atomic power plants will have little impact on expansion and achieving nuclear generation capacity of 70 to 80 gigawatts by 2020 is “still achievable,” an industry group official said.

Nuclear plants “under construction are still undergoing construction as planned. There’s no impact on those,” Xu Yuming, vice secretary general of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said in an interview before a conference in Beijing today. “There will probably be some delays in new projects waiting for approval but the impact will be small.”

China on March 16 announced a freeze on approvals for new reactors as regulators examine safety procedures following Japan’s nuclear crisis at Fukushima after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. China has 14 operational nuclear reactors and is building at least 26, according to the World Nuclear Association website.

“Fukushima has made us pause and rethink some of our projects. The industry will progress in a safer and more orderly manner. Of course, the overall plan won’t be changed,” Xu said. “As a developing nation, China faces power shortages and we need to change our energy mix. To resolve these two issues, we must develop nuclear.”

China may have 200 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity by 2030 and 400 gigawatts by 2050, according to Xu. Nuclear power is likely to meet 15 percent of the nation’s energy demand by 2050, Xu said.

The country may build third-generation nuclear power plants on a larger scale in about 2015, he said. China’s existing reactors use second-generation technology, the official Xinhua News Agency said last July.

First-generation reactors started in the 1950s and 1960s and there are none outside the U.K. today, according to the World Nuclear Association. Second-generation units are also used in the U.S. and France, while early third-generation reactor designs have been operating in Japan since 1996.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Amit Prakash at aprakash1@bloomberg.net

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