Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan

Countries put freeze on nuclear plans after Japan quake

Governments all over the world have put a hold on nuclear plans following the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

Germany has announced a three-month moratorium on nuclear power where nine reactors will stay offline, while China has ordered a safety crackdown on nuclear plants.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that any reactors which had begun operation in 1980 or earlier should be immediately shut down, with all units closed accounting for 8336 MWe of generation capacity - around 41 per cent of the country's total nuclear fleet and 6.4 per cent of the country's total power plants.

As nuclear power plants usually operate round the clock in a baseload role, the loss of power will be greater. Nuclear provides about 25 per cent of Germany’s electricity so the shutdowns could translate to about 10 per cent of German power production.

A State Council meeting chaired by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said the country would temporarily suspend approval of nuclear power projects and called for use of "the most advanced standards" to proceed with a safety assessment of all nuclear plants under construction.

"Any hazards must be thoroughly dealt with, and those that do not conform to safety standards must immediately cease construction," a government statement said.

The safety push could slow the expansion of nuclear power, which the government hopes will play a big role in plans to cut dependence on coal over the next decade, according to Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Chinese Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

"The suspension (of new project approvals) is just a temporary one and will not influence China's long-term nuclear power construction plans," he said.

"This is clearly the right thing to do and it is what every country will be doing to ensure that ordinary people are reassured about the safety of nuclear power plants."

German environment minister Norbert Röttgen said safety checks would take place over the three month “period of reflection and action”, while the government reassesses its nuclear policy and its 2009 decision to increase the generation allowances the plants hold.

The amount of power production lost in three months could be over 13.7 TWh, with a market value of between €1.0 billion and €2.6 billion.

The impact on the German government from loss of income via its unique nuclear fuel tax could be around €235 million.

China is building about 28 reactors, or roughly 40 percent of the world's total under construction, and the central government has fast-tracked approvals in the past two years.

China now has only 10.8 gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity in operation after over two decades of construction, and has an official target to increase capacity to 40GW by 2020.

However analysts expect a revised target of 70-80 GW to be included in the country's new five-year plan for the energy sector due at the end of this month.

Meanwhile Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said at a briefing with Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan that nuclear energy is safe provided power stations are built in the right place and are designed and managed properly.

The two premiers were discussing Russian plans to build Turkey's first nuclear power station.

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