Nuclear power station in China

China due to pass nuclear safety legislation to boost sector

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A safety law aimed at promoting the safe development of the nuclear industry is ready to be passed in China, according to state media.

The legislation will help prevent and deal with accidents in the civil nuclear industry to protect public health and the environment, said Xinhua, the state media agency. The law will manage risks associated with the construction and decommissioning of major new nuclear facilities, and the handling of nuclear waste.

China’s legislators have suggested that the time has come to approve the law, indicating that it may be passed at the end of the week, as parliament ends its legislative session.

Thanks to increasing national and international concern about carbon emissions and climate change, air pollution and diminishing fossil fuel reserves, nuclear power – along with renewable energy – is considered an important successor to coal power in China.

The country has 37 live nuclear power plants, and plans to build a further 60 domestic plants in the next decade, to provide for total capacity of 58GW by the end of 2020 (six per cent of its total electricity production).

Recently, China has taken on an increasingly prominent role in the development of new nuclear technologies, most significantly the Hualong One reactor. This is an advanced pressurised water reactor with active and passive safety systems, double containment and a 60-year working life.

China has signed agreements to build reactors in Argentina, Romania, Egypt and Kenya, and invested heavily in the Hinkley Point C reactor: one the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK. A Hualong One reactor is also likely to be deployed in the UK, at site of the retired Bradwell nuclear power station in Essex.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organisation that promotes peaceful nuclear energy, described China’s nuclear safety record as “strong” in a 2016 report, but said that some “further work” was needed in waste management and how to handle ageing power plants.

The IAEA has, according to Xinhua, begun its first nuclear safety assessment of China, at the request of the China Atomic Energy Authority, and will suggest improvements.

“During the 10-day assessment, the agency will review China’s nuclear security system, laws and government supervision, and visit nuclear plants in Zhejiang province,” Xinhua said.

In February 2017, China’s ministry for the environment announced that a manufacturer of nuclear power plant components had been fined for safety breaches at two facilities.

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