The current slowdown might result in a boost for Chinese nuclear energy. Ambitious targets could be raised further, while current build rates appear to make the new goals achievable.
Plans for nuclear energy's role in China's fast-growing power sector are under revision at the National Energy Administration (NEA), according to reports from the country's official Xinhua news agency.
The head of the NEA, Zhang Guobao, recently wrote in the Qiu Shi journal that China should use the current financial uncertainty as an opportunity to review its plans. Meanwhile, Zhou Xian, a director at the NEA, told a Beijing conference that 'the golden time for China's nuclear power development has come' and that it would boost development at coastal sites where the majority of growth is already planned.
Separately, Sun Qin of the NEA told a press conference that nuclear power could make up 5% of Chinese generating capacity by 2020 - which would mean over 72 GWe taken in line with other projections. The figure would represent a significant jump upwards from the current target of 60 GWe, which itself replaced a former goal of 40 GWe.
This compares to a goal for wind capacity of 100 GWe by 2020 and a total national capacity of 1400 to 1500 GWe, dominated by coal.
To reach a capacity of around 72 GWe by 2020, China will have to build around 60 more reactors in 11 years. Given that eleven reactors are currently under construction with six of those construction starts coming last year, that build rate would have continue or increase slightly up to 2016 in order to meet the goal.
After developing its own nuclear power technologies, China has since imported a range of power reactor types from global vendors. From a French import it went on to develop the CPR-1000 design, which it can now build almost completely using domestic contractors. The other main strand of nuclear technology is to be based on America's Westinghouse AP1000. The first four of those units will be completed in coming years, with Chinese technologists and manufacturers mastering its systems in order to move on to mass domestic deployment.
© World Nuclear News, 2009