China to Cut Nuclear Goal After Japan Reactor Crisis

China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, will cut its 2020 target for nuclear power capacity and build more solar farms following Japan’s atomic crisis, said an official at the National Development and Reform Commission.

The country will reduce its nuclear capacity goal of 80 gigawatts, Ren Dongming, director of the renewable energy development center under the economic planner’s energy research institute, said at a Beijing conference today, without giving a new target. The goal for solar-power capacity will increase from the current target of 20 gigawatts, he said.

“We can see delays in some projects, but in the longer term, I don’t see how they can change the program they have in place without facing drastic power shortages,” David Lennox, an analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney, said by telephone. “It’s difficult to see what their alternatives to nuclear are.”

Radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station following Japan’s record March 11 earthquake have prompted other countries to review their nuclear development. NDRC Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua said yesterday China won’t alter its atomic energy plans, even as the Cabinet had stopped approving new nuclear plants, pending safety checks.

Shares of nuclear plant-equipment maker Shanghai Electric Group Co. and Dongfang Electric Corp. both slumped 2 percent in Hong Kong trading. The benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.3 percent. Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. advanced 1.8 percent on the Shenzhen exchange.

Safer Reactors

The crisis in Japan will encourage “healthy development” of the Chinese nuclear industry in the long term as the Fukushima accident will prompt China to take additional safety measures, Cao Peixi, chairman of Huaneng Power International Inc., said at a media briefing in Hong Kong today.

China’s biggest electricity producer won’t alter its nuclear plans because of Japan, Cao said. The Chinese government approved on March 1 a proposal by parent China Huaneng Group to develop a 4,000-megawatt atomic plant in Shandong province, said Cao, who’s also president of the group.

The country, building more reactors than any other, currently has at least 14 atomic units in operation, according to data from the World Nuclear Association. The world’s fastest-growing major economy is constructing at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the association. The country started operating its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994.

“We do see in three to five years a significant uptake in safer reactor technology,” Fat Prophets’s Lennox said. “When we make a step towards safety, bigger nuclear plans may then come from countries.”

Public Health Concerns

Public health worries escalated in China in the week following the Fukushima accident, with shoppers clearing shelves of salt, perceived as a defense against radiation exposure. China has since released the daily results of its nationwide radiation checks to allay concern.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and National Nuclear Safety Administration may start a nationwide inspection of nuclear plants that may last for several months, the 21st Century Business Herald said March 25, citing Yu Jun, a deputy head of the ministry’s department of nuclear safety management.

The 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine sparked protests in Hong Kong against the Daya Bay plant in the mid-1980s. The station in Guangdong province, 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui district, had two radiation leaks last year that owners CLP Holdings Ltd. and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co. said didn’t pose a danger to human health.

China aims to increase the share of renewable sources, including nuclear and solar power, in its energy mix to 11 percent over the next five years from 8 percent, data from the National Energy Administration show.

(Corrects official’s title and spelling of his name in second paragraph of story published March 31.)
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