Following the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, China is evaluating plans to double its goal for solar power capacity to 10GW by 2015.
Xu Gubao, a senior official at the National Energy Administration in Beijing, said a detailed study will be carried out after which a proposal will be submitted to the National Development and Reform Commission.
Despite the concern over the Japan crisis, China is in top gear to ramp up nuclear power capacity to 40GW by 2020. By any reckoning China has the most ambitious nuclear power programme over the next 10 years, with a massive investment of US$150bn.
“Construction of nuclear reactors that the government has allotted the funds for would still go ahead even if the expansion of solar power capacity is approved,” Xu said.
China currently has 13 operational nuclear reactors, with another 28 under construction by two state-owned businesses. The Cabinet has for the time being suspended plans for additional reactors.
Xu dismissed fears of possible nuclear catastrophes in China as more plants are being built in provinces in the remote regions which are sitting on the earthquake belt.
“What is important is that we are making sure that the plants do not hold more uranium than they are designed for and there is ample water supply around these areas,” Xu said.
Despite the huge nuclear power programme, China has yet to put safety plans into place in case of an accident at a plant site.
Xu claimed that safety concerns are being looked into and will be addressed. “Stringent checks on all nuclear power plants and those under construction across the country have commenced. The authorities are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that safety measures are put in place,” Xu said.
China intends to provide 15 per cent of the country’s total power needs from non-fossil fuels by 2020, up from 8 per cent now.
Xu said that if construction of nuclear reactors was scaled back, solar, wind and hydroelectric generation would have to increase significantly.
China is the world’s largest producer of solar panels but close to 90 per cent of output is exported, mainly to Europe.
According to the World Nuclear Association, 40 of the 62 reactors being constructed around the world are in Asia. Korea and India are building five each, with another 25 planned between the two countries.
Vietnam says it has no plans to abandon its nuclear development programme, but Thailand is contemplating calling off five planned plants. Malaysia was to have its first plant operating by 2020, but is set to abandon the plan.