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China May Lower 2020 Nuclear Target by 10%, Association Says

China, the world’s biggest energy user, may cut its 2020 nuclear power capacity goal by about 10 percent under a revised development plan to be announced this year, said a group tasked to help implement atomic policies.

“The government wants to address public concern over the safety of nuclear development,” Li Yongjiang, vice president of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said in an interview in Hong Kong, where he is attending an industry conference. “Capacity will fall somewhere between 60 and 70 gigawatts, as some planned projects have to be scaled back or canceled.”

China aims to install 70 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by the end of the decade, the National Energy Administration said last year. The government halted approvals of new atomic stations after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and the disaster spurred a global review of nuclear energy development.

The government has completed safety checks on the country’s nuclear plants, and inspectors will submit their findings to the State Council, or Cabinet, Li said in a speech. China’s long-term plan to develop atomic energy is unlikely to change significantly, he said.

Growth in China’s nuclear power industry will slow over the next five years, compared with the last five years, Zhang Guobao, the former head of the energy administration, said in a speech posted on the website of the China Nuclear Energy Association in August. Zhang, replaced by Liu Tienan in January as head of the administration, is currently serving on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The CPPCC is a political advisory body led by the Communist Party of China.

Safety Concerns

The State Oceanic Administration said on April 7 that China in the future will limit the number of reactors to be built on the coast. The country, constructing more reactors than any other, has at least 14 atomic units in operation, according to data from the World Nuclear Association.

The country, which started operating its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the association.

“Nuclear power’s strategic importance in China’s energy sector has not changed,” Cao Shudong, assistant to the president of China National Nuclear Corp., the country’s largest atomic plant operator, said in an interview. “The Japan nuclear accident only made china pay more attention to nuclear safety and adopt more advanced technology.”

China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration, a department under the Environmental Protection Ministry, will increase its staff including inspectors to more than 1,000 from about 300. By contrast, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has almost 4,000 people overseeing 104 reactors, according to the NRC website.

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