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China eyes nuclear plant for quake-hit province

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s earthquake-hit Sichuan province hopes to build its first nuclear power plant within as little as five years, but has chosen a site it says is geologically sound, state media said on Wednesday.

A feasibility study for the 25 billion yuan (1.8 billion pound) project, which would be located at Sanba village, will soon be submitted to the central government’s top economic planner for approval, the official China Daily cited a top official saying.

“Construction of the station will begin once we have received approval, and will take about five years to complete,” said Zhao Hua, head of the Nuclear Power Institute of China.

The chosen site is to the east of the capital Chengdu, while the zone devastated by the May earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000 and left thousands more missing, lies to its west.

A team of experts visited the site after the quake to confirm its geology was sound, Zhao added.

“There was no signs of any subsidence or landslips,” he said.

The province currently gets around two thirds of its power from dams, and often suffers electricity shortages in the dry season, the paper quoted Sichuan’s deputy Communist Party Secretary Li Chongxi as saying.

It wants to diversify its generating base and secure enough electricity to fuel fast economic development.

Sichuan is also home to several energy firms, which Li said made it a good place to develop nuclear power.

But some of the companies he named, including listed Dongfang Electric, were badly hit in the earthquake. Many of Sichuan’s dams were also damaged, destroyed or even buried by the devastating quake, arousing some concerns over the industry’s future there.

Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Keiron Henderson