China May Approve Nuclear Plan Next Month, Official Says

China’s state council, or Cabinet, will probably hold a meeting before the end of June to approve safety and development plans for the nuclear industry, according to Xu Yuming, the vice secretary general of the China Nuclear Energy Association.

The government can resume approval of new nuclear plants after the plans are passed, Xu said before a conference in Beijing today. The plan was rejected earlier and amendments are being made to some “minor” details, he said, without elaborating.

China suspended new nuclear projects after last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of atomic energy plants. The policy has hurt China’s major nuclear power equipment makers, including Shanghai Electric Group Co., Dongfang Electric Corp. and Harbin Electric Co., which had long-term contracts frozen.

“The timing is a bit more positive than news from last week that it may be as late as July for a State Council decision on approvals,” said Guo Shou, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Barclays Capital. “From a public image point of view, it may be difficult for the government to be very aggressive in setting targets for 2020 plans.”

Construction hasn’t started on four nuclear reactors that were approved prior to the Fukushima disaster, according to Xu. The reactors are Yangjiang Nos. 4, 5 and 6, and Fuqing No. 4, he said. Two new reactors will begin operations by the end of the year, he said. The facilities at Hongyanhe and Ningde resumed construction after a nationwide safety inspection that started in April 2011.

Nuclear Safety Regulation

The State Council will hold a second round of talks on nuclear safety and the mid- and long-term atomic power development plans, Xinhua News Agency said on May 10, citing Wang Binghua, chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. Xinhua didn’t provide details.

China’s Cabinet has yet to pass a safety plan for nuclear plants, Caixin magazine reported on May 11.

The nuclear power safety regulation is ready and a draft will be submitted to the State Council after minor adjustments, the environmental protection ministry said in a statement on its website on Dec. 12. The regulation, prepared by the China Nuclear Safety Administration, a division of the ministry, outlines rules and goals for nuclear safety by 2020.

Passage of the safety regulations and atomic power development plans are the two key conditions to resume China’s nuclear expansion plans, Li Yongjiang, vice president of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said in January.

Nuclear-Capacity Plans

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

The country may have 70 gigawatts of installed nuclear power capacity and 30 gigawatts under construction by the end of the decade, Xu said today. It may have 200 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2030, he said.

The 2020 target may be scaled back to 60 gigawatts to 70 gigawatts, Li told Bloomberg in October.

China will limit the number of reactors to be built on the coast, the State Oceanic Administration said on April 7 last year. The country, which is constructing more reactors than any other nation, has at least 14 atomic units in operation and more than 25 under construction, according to reports from the World Nuclear Association.

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