World News

China says virus outbreak will not impact nuclear power plant construction

BEIJING (Reuters) - The coronavirus outbreak will have no impact on the progress of nuclear power plant construction in China in the short term, and reactors already in operation have not been affected, a nuclear safety official said on Wednesday.

All 15 unfinished reactor units had resumed construction and no plants now in operation were suspended during the outbreak, Tang Bo, director of the nuclear safety inspection department at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), told reporters.

China originally aimed to bring total nuclear capacity up to 58 gigawatts (GW) by the end of this year, and have another 30 GW under construction, but it is not expected to meet the targets due to prior project delays and a halt in new approvals.

China was initially expected to approve at least six new nuclear projects this year. It had a total of 47 plants in operation by the end of last year, with total capacity at 48.75 GW.

At the same briefing, Jiang Guang, director of the MEE’s radiation safety department, said China was actively looking for new sites to build nuclear waste treatment plants, and it would also expand the capacity of its three existing facilities.

China had the capacity to treat 76,800 cubic metres of nuclear waste a year, with around 45,000 cu m being utilised, but needed to build more facilities to cope with the new reactor coming on line, he added.

Authorities had also chosen nine potential sites for an underground high-radiation waste treatment programme.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Stephen Coates