| BEIJING, July 18
BEIJING, July 18 China's state-owned reactor
builder said the start-up of the country's first advanced
nuclear project based on designs by U.S.-based Westinghouse has
been delayed further until at least end of 2015 due to tougher
In an interview to official news agency Xinhua on Thursday,
Guo Hongbo, a spokesman at China's State Nuclear Power
Technology Corp (SNPTC), blamed the delayed start of the
"third-generation" AP1000 reactor on stringent safety
inspections after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
Originally set to start by end-2013, the project in Sanmen
in eastern Zhejiang province was already delayed until December
2014. It has now been pushed back at least another year, after
design changes and problems with some components.
The construction delays at the Sanmen project are a further
indication of the challenges facing the country as it tries to
develop the supply chains and the personnel required to
construct and operate dozens of new reactors.
"Safety and quality must come first," Guo was quoted as
saying. "We should never trade them just to meet a deadline."
China signed a deal with Westinghouse, now owned by Japan's
Toshiba, in 2007 that would involve the construction of
the world's first AP1000 reactors at sites on the eastern coast.
SNPTC, established in 2007, began work on four
1,100-megawatt AP1000 units in 2009. Two will be built at the
Sanmen site, with the rest built at Haiyang in Shandong
province. The deal also allowed China to adopt the AP1000 as the
basis for its own domestic third-generation reactor design, the
China's nuclear safety commission said in April that it had
identified problems at the Sanmen site, after workers failed to
properly install the steam pipe on the reactor pressure vessel.
Xinhua said Guo rejected suggestions that the delay was
caused by the U.S. side's refusal to transfer key technology.
Westinghouse was not immediately able to comment when
contacted by Reuters on Friday morning, but industry experts
said the delays were within expectations.
"December 2015 takes the construction time to six years and
nine months, roughly, so for a first-of-a-kind unit that is not
entirely surprising, and the Chinese government has always been
very meticulous with regard to nuclear issues," said Ian
Hore-Lacy, research analyst with the World Nuclear Association.
He said the delays were "trivial" compared to the ones
affecting new nuclear projects in Europe and elsewhere.
Calls to Guo's mobile and SNPTC were not answered.
PLANS FOR CAPACITY SURGE
China is in the middle of a huge nuclear reactor building
programme that will see total capacity reach at least 58
gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2020, up from 17.78 GW at present,
and Westinghouse said China could sign deals for another eight
AP1000 reactors starting next year.
The country's two major nuclear operators, the China
National Nuclear Corporation and the China General Nuclear
Project Corporation, also have ambitions to play a bigger role
in the global nuclear market.
However, the country's ambitious plans were held back by a
moratorium on new approvals imposed after Fukushima and lasting
more than a year as the government conducted a nationwide safety
inspection at all nuclear projects.
SNPTC's Guo also told Xinhua that the company was now
seeking a merger with electricity giant China Power Investment
Corp, and plans had already been submitted to the State-Owned
Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC).
He said the merger plans were not connected to the problems
at the AP1000 projects, Xinhua said.
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)