China Kickstarts Nuclear Power by Approving Two New Reactors

China approved construction of its first nuclear power project since the Fukushima disaster in Japan almost four years ago brought the program to a standstill.

China’s State Council gave the go-ahead on Feb. 17 to begin building two new reactors at China General Nuclear Power Group’s Hongyanhe plant in the country’s northeast, the National Business Daily newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the situation. E-mails and calls to China General Nuclear’s spokesman weren’t immediately answered.

Shares of companies connected to the nuclear power industry in China rose. Shanghai Electric Group Co. gained as much as 4.4 percent in Shanghai; Dongfang Electric Corp. rose as much as 3.4 percent in Shanghai; Jiangsu Shentong Valve Co. increased as much as 5.9 percent in Shenzhen, and SUFA Technology Industry Co.’s shares in Shenzhen rose as much as 4.1 percent.

The resumption would mark a major step in China’s push to bolster nuclear power capacity as part of a bid to make good on international promises to control pollution. China plans to expand atomic capacity threefold by 2020 to as much as 58 gigawatts, exceeding Japan’s nuclear resources before Fukushima.

Nuclear power is among the clean energies China hopes to rely on in a bid to cap carbon emissions by 2030. Atomic energy now accounts for just 2 percent of the country’s total power generation, according to International Energy Agency reports.

China may soon approve another two nuclear units in Fujian province, and may eventually approve construction of six to eight units within the year, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified official close to the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s economic planner.

Asia represents the future of the nuclear power industry, with 47 reactors under construction and plans to build a further 142 reactors by 2030, the World Nuclear Association said in a statement on Jan. 15. Asian investment in nuclear projects could reach $781 billion during the period, the WNA said.

China has 22 reactors in operation and another 26 under construction, according to data from the China Nuclear Society.