Beijing: Energy-hungry China is considering opening up its nuclear power industry to domestic and foreign firms, who will be allowed to invest in atomic power generating projects but cannot hold a controlling stake.
“China is considering opening the nuclear fuel sector to foreign investors as the nation is keen to boost its nuclear power sector,” Wang Yiren of the State Commission of Science and Technology for National Defence Industry said.
The country’s draft nuclear energy law is being revised, he added.
According to China’s longer-term development plan for the nuclear power industry, nuclear power capacity will increase to 40 million kw in 2020, with construction work beginning on at least three power generating units in the next 10 years.
Currently, there are 10 commercial nuclear power generating plants operational in China, including the No. 1 unit at Tianwan nuclear power station in east China’s Jiangsu Province, which came onstream on 17 May 2007. Their combined installed capacity stands at 8 million kw.
The other nine units include Qinshan, Dayawan, and No. 2 and 3 phases of Qinshan and Ling’ao. Four units are being built as the second phase of the Ling’ao project in south China’s Guangdong Province and the second phase of the Qinshan project in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province.
According to Wang, China’s nuclear industry generated 54.8 billion kw/h of electricity last year, less than 2% of the nation’s total.
The government wants the nuclear industry to contribute 4% of the nation’s energy needs by 2020, Xinhua news agency reported.
Wang said the Chinese government has strict controls on uranium ore prospecting and mining but allows foreign experts to assist Chinese geological authorities in their exploration efforts.
Wang noted uranium was mainly distributed in two huge inter-continental metallogenic zones, which both traverse the Chinese mainland. This is encouraging for China’s chances of finding uranium.
China now has 300-plus research institutions and production firms devoted to nuclear technology, employing approximately 50,000 people.