|A Chinese man overlooks power towers outside his house in a Beijing neighborhood|
China has laid out an ambitious plan to almost double the percentage of nuclear energy it produces by the year 2020. Officials at the same time deny any suggestion that they are supplying nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea.
Kang Rixin, general manager of the state-owned nuclear power agency, China National Nuclear Corporation, told reporters in Beijing Monday the agency wants to share its technology with other nations. He denied any suggestion China might be supplying other nations with the materials or knowledge to develop nuclear weapons.
"Our international cooperation is for peaceful purposes and we strictly follow relevant rules and principles," he said. "We have no such cooperation with Iran, North Korea, and Libya."
Beijing in the 1980s and 1990s made repeated assurances that it was not helping other nations develop nuclear capabilities. These assurances were followed by later revelations that China had secretly supplied countries including Iran and Pakistan with nuclear technology.
China is helping Pakistan with plans to build a 300-megawatt nuclear power plant. Construction is expected to start as early as this year.
Chinese officials say they need to expand nuclear power production capacity to meet the country's rapidly growing energy needs. The country's coal- and oil-fueled power plants are unable to keep up with electricity demand and many areas of the country have experienced power outages over the past few years.
The nuclear plans were discussed as U.N. and Chinese government officials gathered Monday to begin work on a 12-year effort to address China's energy challenges as the nation becomes the world's second largest consumer of energy - after the United States.
U.N. Development Program representative Khalid Malik says China's energy problems stem from its reliance on highly polluting coal, insufficient production, and its inefficient use of electricity.
"China is using two and a-half times more energy than it needs to, per unit of output, if you were to compare global averages. So there is a lot of room for improvement," he said.
China currently gets little more than two percent of its electricity from its nine nuclear power plants. Officials on Monday said they plan to bring 10 more plants online in the coming years. The aim is to have four percent of the country's energy come from nuclear sources by the year 2020.