News / Asia

China Vows to Press Ahead With Nuclear Energy Plans

A special police officer stands guard at the construction site of the Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in Sanmen, east China's Zhejiang Province (File Photo)
A special police officer stands guard at the construction site of the Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in Sanmen, east China's Zhejiang Province (File Photo)
TEXT SIZE - +

Chinese leaders are vowing to press ahead with their ambitious nuclear energy plans despite the nuclear crisis in Japan. Experts say nuclear energy is essential because of China’s continually growing energy demands, combined with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

China’s nuclear vision is clear. There are 13 nuclear power reactors in operation in China. The World Nuclear Association last week said China has more than 25 nuclear power reactors under construction, and more about to start construction soon.

Following the disasters in Japan, the official Xinhua News Agency says China is suspending approval for new nuclear plants so that authorities can revise safety standards and do safety checks at existing plants.

But in the only public and official comment so far, Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Zhang Lijun says China will maintain  its overall nuclear energy policies. He spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, one day after the Japan earthquake.

Zhang says China can learn lessons from Japan, but will not change its plan for developing nuclear-power.

Nuclear power now makes up only about one percent of China’s energy mix, but the recently approved five-year plan includes quadrupling nuclear energy’s share by 2015.

Shi Dinghuan is an energy advisor to the State Council, which is China’s Cabinet. Shi says Japan’s nuclear crisis will draw official Chinese attention to the issue of nuclear safety standards. But he says China will not change its overall policy or strategic direction "just because of a big natural accident in another country."

Shi points out the United States has also announced its policies to pursue nuclear power are not changed.

He advocates greater efforts to expand energy generated from renewable sources, such as wind and the sun.  But he says he believes nuclear power needs to remain in the mix, especially since China’s energy demand will keep increasing as economic growth continues.

Tsinghua University School of Public Policy Associate Professor Wang Haibin is an expert on China’s civilian nuclear industry.

He says there has been a quickening of the pace of nuclear-power development in China in recent years, including an official target of about 70 nuclear reactors in China by 2020.

Wang says if this speed is maintained, he thinks there could be problems with safety at nuclear plants, including problems with construction materials and other preventative measures.

At the same time, he points out that the events in Japan are still unfolding and says he thinks it is possible the Chinese government may still adjust its targets accordingly.

The nuclear facilities being built in China rely on newer technology that officials hope will be safer than the ones in Japan.

China Nuclear Power Engineering Corporation Vice President Liu Wei told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper last week that China can put up nuclear-power facilities faster than in Japan. He said one reason is in China, officials do not encounter opposition from the local communities.

Greenpeace’s Li Yan says she thinks one reason there is little public opposition to nuclear power in China is because Chinese people do not know much about it.

"First of all, energy policies are made in a very top-down approach. It is a very elite discussion and nuclear energy so far is not a big percentage in China, and Chinese people have many more other issues to worry about, especially burning coal and its pollution to water and air," said Li Yan. "And so, at that level, you do not see really hot debate on nuclear as an energy type."

She says there is also a problem in China that the government in the past has been secretive and not readily willing to disclose information.

Nevertheless, the Japanese nuclear disaster is helping to raise Chinese people’s awareness of nuclear power and a debate on the dangers and benefits of nuclear power is beginning on the Internet

Like Japan, China is an earthquake-prone country, and some Chinese expressed their concern a quake could damage a nuclear facility.  Others expressed frustration that, unlike some leaders in Europe, Chinese leaders are not reconsidering their policy of pursuing nuclear power.

At the same time, some Chinese supported nuclear power and echoed the government’s comments that nuclear energy is less polluting than coal or oil.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid