China to open nuclear industry to investment

7 June 2007 – China is to boost nuclear power generation by opening the industry to private and foreign investors, according to state officials.

China’s draft nuclear-energy law is being revised so that domestic and foreign companies can invest in the country’s nuclear-power-generating projects but cannot hold a controlling stake, said Wang Yiren, a senior official with the State Commission of Science and Technology for National Defense Industry.

According to China’s longer-term development plan for the nuclear power industry, capacity will increase to 40m kW in 2020, with construction work beginning on at least three nuclear power generating units in each of the coming ten years.

Currently, there are ten commercial nuclear power-generating units operational in China, including the No 1 unit at the Tianwan nuclear power station in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, which came on-stream on 17 May. Their combined installed capacity stands at 8m kW.

The other nine units include Qinshan, Dayawan, and Phase 2 and Phase 3 of Qinshan and Lingao. Four units are being built for the second phase of the Lingao project in southern China’s Guangdong province and the second phase of the Qinshan project in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.

According to Wang, China’s nuclear industry generated 54.8bn kWh of electricity last year, less than 2 per cent of the nation’s total. The government wants the nuclear industry to contribute 4 per cent of the nation’s energy needs by 2020.

Wang said the government has strict controls on prospecting and mining of uranium ore but allows foreign experts to assist Chinese geological authorities in their prospecting efforts.