China freezes nuclear approvals after Japan crisis

China's vast nuclear push is likely to slow after the government ordered a safety crackdown on Wednesday in the aftermath of Japan's nuclear crisis.

The announcement by the State Council, or cabinet, was the clearest sign yet that the crisis at a quake-ravaged nuclear complex in northeast Japan could affect China's ambitious nuclear expansion which was slated to be by far the world's largest.

But at least one expert said the measures were unlikely to stop China's expansion of nuclear power.

A State Council meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao told Chinese residents they had nothing to fear about radiation drifting from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.

But China's own nuclear power plans would face tougher scrutiny, said the account of the meeting on the government's website.

"We will temporarily suspend approval of nuclear power projects, including those in the preliminary stages of development," the statement said.

The State Council 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," the statement said.

The safety push could slow, but not stop, the expansion of nuclear power, which the government hopes will play a big role cutting dependence on coal over the next decade, said one expert.

"The suspension (of new project approvals) is just a temporary one and will not influence China's long-term nuclear power construction plans," said Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Chinese Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

"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."

The State Council said it had detected no abnormal levels of radiation in China from Japan. Chinese experts had concluded that wind would scatter any radiation from the crippled Japanese plant over the Pacific Ocean, the statement said.

Local governments across China have been vying for the investment, jobs and kudos that the new reactors would bring. They usually ally themselves with major nuclear operation companies to push projects, which require a series of permits and safety reports.

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.

Related Articles

Back to top button