Asia airs nuclear ambitions at U.N. gathering

VIENNA Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:19am EDT

VIENNA (Reuters) - China, India and other Asian states used a United Nations nuclear agency meeting this week to signal their determination to expand the use of atomic energy.

At the September 16-20 annual gathering of the IAEA's 159 member states, China outlined plans for more nuclear power plants despite safety worries around the world in the aftermath of Japan's Fukushima disaster.

"The Chinese government has never wavered its firm determination to support nuclear energy development," Ma Xingrui, chairman of China's Atomic Energy Authority, said.

With 17 nuclear power units now operating on the Chinese mainland, Beijing has another 28 under construction, the largest number in the world, he told the IAEA conference.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cut its long-term outlook for nuclear energy growth for a third year in a row, in part because of hesitancy following Japan's crisis. But, it said, the industry could still nearly double its capacity by 2030 due to growth in Asia.

"Nuclear power faces challenges but the outlook remains strong," Agneta Rising, director general of World Nuclear Association industry body, said. "That a few countries have a negative view is not enough to affect its long-term growth."

South Korea too is continuing efforts to expand its nuclear power program; it now has 23 plants and plans to build 11 new reactors by 2024, Sank-Mok Lee, head of the South Korean delegation, said.

India's construction of four home designed pressurized heavy water reactors is progressing as scheduled and it aims to build sixteen more such plants, Ratan Kumar Sinha, chairman of its Atomic Energy Commission, said.

India now has 19 reactors in operation, he said.

Indonesia said it was "resolved to harness nuclear energy" and Vietnam said the site investigation and feasibility study for two plants would be completed and submitted to the government for approval by the end of 2013. Pakistan too spoke of its intention to construct more nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power has long been used as a reliable alternative to fossil fuels in natural resource-starved parts of Asia, even though the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns caused a growing crisis of confidence.

In contrast with growth plans in Asia, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium have decided to move away from nuclear power after the disaster.

The IAEA's projections said low natural gas prices, an increase in subsidised renewable energy capacity and the financial crisis were expected to have an impact on nuclear prospects in the developed world in the short term.

But population growth, demand for electricity, climate change concerns and price volatility for other fuels "continue to point to nuclear generating capacity playing an important role in the energy mix," it added.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl, editing by William Hardy)

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Comments (1)
MikeBarnett wrote:
China increases its use of nuclear power as part of its $1.7 trillion, 22 point, 5 year ($340 billion per year) plan to combat pollution that began in late 2011 and the Durban Climate Change Conference. China is not on the same oceanic fault lines as Japan and does not set up a nuclear power plant on the coast with the back up generators in the basement. The Japanese appear to have forgotten that “tsunami” is a Japanese word. The earthquake was bad enough, but the tsunami flooded the back up generators in the BASEMENT (?) and prevented cooling of the several reactor cores. In addition, a nation that depends on the sea doesn’t know how to plug a leak.

Getting back to the main topic, China intends to use nuclear power to reduce dependence and, thereby, emissions from coal plants. Each nuclear plant will generate more electricity than a coal plant, and China will learn more about operating each plant with each year of use. In addition, their experiences will help further development of nuclear energy because safety reports and design improvements can be shared and tested to improve safety and efficiency in all nations that use nuclear plants.

Sep 21, 2013 6:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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