A leading Chinese scientist has warned that China’s rapid plans to boost its number of nuclear power plant reactors is a disaster in the making, because the country has yet to invest in adequate safety controls to counter a potential Fukushima accident in the future.
China targets to have constructed 71 operational nuclear power plants by 2020, boosting its nuclear capacity from 21 gigawatts to over 50 gigawatts by the timeframe. It won’t stop there. Over the next 10 years to 2030, it will build additional power plants so it can reach the 150 gigawatts level.
“This is insane,” physicist He Zuoxiu told the Guardian.
The rapid nuclear energy expansion meant to reduce China’s reliance on coal. The latter supplies 70 percent of the country’s current energy needs, but it has obvious environmental consequences to China.
He doesn’t deny China needs to change its energy mix, but worries the rollout was going too fast. He believes at the rate, safety and monitoring expertise are sure to be overlooked.
“There are currently two voices on nuclear energy in China. One prioritises safety while the other prioritizes development.” He added, “corruption, poor management abilities and decision-making capabilities” will surely become factors in the plan.
China immediately imposed a ban on new nuclear power plants after the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. It then conducted safety reviews on all operational plants. But He isn’t satisfied with the results because the safety checks were carried out under old standards.
“China currently does not have enough experience to make sound judgments on whether there could be accidents,” He said, noting majority of the country’s operational reactors were launched after 2000.
As of 2014, China’s operational nuclear power reactors on the mainland alone total to 22. Its total installed capacity is equivalent to 20.3 gigawatts. Under construction are some 24 reactors.