This comes as no surprise. Straight after the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, China has suspended approval for new nuclear power stations. It will also carry out checks at existing reactors and those under construction. China is currently building 27 new reactors – about 40% of the total number being built around the world.
The decision to temporarily halt approval for nuclear plants came at a meeting of China’s State Council, or Cabinet, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. “We will temporarily suspend approval for nuclear power projects, including those that have already begun preliminary work, before nuclear safety regulations are approved,” read a statement from the State Council.
China currently gets only about 2% of its electricity from nuclear power from 13 reactors, but it has launched an ambitious project to drastically increase those figures. It is currently building more reactors than any other country in the world. According to the World Nuclear Association, China wants to build a total of 110 nuclear reactors over the next few years.
Although China’s nuclear power plans seem very ambitious, they are not entirely unreasonable as the country is still heavily dependent on coal for power. There are many forms of greener energy but to meet the demands of such a large population, nuclear power seems to be unavoidable.
The problem is that many of the new nuclear plants are near highly populated areas and China doesn’t have the best safety record in respect to nuclear power. International experts complained in 2009 that China was short on nuclear inspectors, a problem the government pledged to remedy by quintupling the number of staff at its safety agency by the end of that year. Also in 2009, the government-appointed head of China National Nuclear Corp., which overseas China’s nuclear program, was detained because of allegations of bid-rigging in nuclear power construction contracts. That scandal raised fears that contractors were being allowed to cut corners and evade safety standards.
I would add that this suspension will most likely only be temporary.