Asia news

E&T reports from Tianjin, China.

China to build inland nuclear plant

By William Dennis

China is about to start building its first nuclear power plant not to be located on the coast.

Construction is expected to begin in May or June at the site in the Xishui County in Hubei province, central China, after the environment assessment report is approved by the Hubei Provincial Development and Reform Commission.

According to Commission spokesman Li Mao, two more plants are planned for Hubei, in the Yangxin and Zhongxiang counties.

Construction of the three plants would be carried out by the Hubei Nuclear Power Co (HNPC) and would cost the Federal government a total of 95 billion yuan ($13.9bn). HNPC is a joint venture between China Guandong Nuclear Power Group and Hubei Energy Group.

The three plants would have a combined installed capacity of 5.7 million kW. The Xishui and Yangxin plants would each have a capacity of 2 million kW while the Zhongxiang plant will have 1.7 million kW.

Hubei faces a shortage of coal and natural gas.

Speaking to E&T in a telephone interview from Tianjin, Li said the Hubei government's aim is to provide its people with safe and clean energy.

China aims to continue building nuclear power plants with a combined installed capacity of 50-65 million kW by 2020 and 120-180 million kW by 2030. It hopes to become self-sufficient in reactor design and construction.

Currently China has 11 nuclear reactors in commercial operation at six facilities with a total capacity of 9 million kW. All the six plants are located in the east coast. Seven others are under construction and 11 more have been approved.

China is dependent on uranium imports for its nuclear power plants.

The country's electricity is 79 per cent generated by coal, 15 per cent hydropower and 3 per cent oil. The government aims to increase energy supplied by nuclear power plants to 5.1 per cent by 2030 from the current 1.6 per cent.

Rapid development in China has created an increase in electricity demand which has led to shortages in several parts of the country.

Li said nuclear power is an effective means for China to reduce the shortfall, though not the whole answer. "Expecting nuclear power to solve the problem would be not be possible in the short-term," Li pointed out.

China orders home-grown high-speed trains

By William Dennis

China's Ministry of Railway has ordered 100 high-speed trains from China National Rail (CNR) at a cost of 39.2 billion yuan ($5.7bn).

The trains will be designed and built by Tangshan Railway Vehicle Co and Changchun Railway Vehicle Co, both subsidiaries of CNR. Tanghsun will build 60 trains and Changchun 40.

Designed to operate at a speed of 350km/h, the trains will be deployed on the Beijing-Shanghai route when construction of the 1,318km line is completed in early 2011. The work is running three months late because of poor weather.

This will be the longest high-speed rail line in the world and will have a top speed of 350km/h. It will reduce travel time between the Chinese capital and the nation's financial hub from the current 13 hours 10 minutes to 4 hours 45 minutes.

China's fastest conventional trains currently have a maximum speed of 250km/h, though the German-build maglev line linking Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the city has a top speed of 400km/h.

Factory to front fightback

By Chris Edwards

Sharp has decided to bring forward the start of operations at its 10th-generation liquid crystal display plant in Sakai, Japan, from March 2010 to October this year in the face of a global downturn for consumer electronics.

The company announced the decision at the same time as releasing an estimate of heavy losses for the year just ended, doubling from the original projection. Sharp president Mikio Katayama told a news conference in Japan: "Getting the world's most cost-competitive factory onstream as quickly as we can will be a powerful weapon to win in this tough climate."

Earnings were hit by mounting inventory from unsold LCD panels and TVs, as well as by restructuring costs. Sharp now expects an operating loss of 60 billion yen.

The company claimed it saw demand increasing from emerging economies such as China. "While full-capacity operation is underway at Kameyama Plant Number Two, Sharp has decided to start operations this October at the new LCD panel plant in Sakai City, where the evaluation of technology for mass production has been completed, to meet this growing demand."

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