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Published: Wednesday, 10/24/2012

China says it's ready to approve new nuclear plants


BEIJING — China said Wednesday that it is ready to approve new nuclear power plants as part of ambitious plans to reduce reliance on oil and coal, ending a moratorium imposed after Japan's Fukushima disaster last year.

The government said it hopes to generate 30 percent of China's power from solar, wind and other renewable as well as nuclear energy sources by the end of 2015. That's up from an earlier target of 15 percent from renewables plus 5 percent from nuclear by 2020.

The Communist government is aggressively promoting wind, solar, hydro and other alternative energy sources to curb surging reliance on imported oil, which it sees as a national security risk.

The Cabinet on Wednesday passed plans on nuclear power safety and development that said construction of nuclear power plants would resume "steadily."

Only a small number of plants would be built, and just in coastal areas, according to a Cabinet announcement about the plans. The plants would meet the most stringent safety standards, it said.

No date was given for resuming construction of nuclear plants.

China suspended approvals of new nuclear plants in March last year after a tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake crippled the Fukushima plant's cooling and backup power systems, causing a partial meltdown in the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

China's leaders ordered safety checks for existing nuclear facilities, a review of projects under construction and improved safety standards.

Despite widespread public concern over possible radiation contamination from the disaster and calls for improved safety precautions and emergency preparedness, China remains committed to building up nuclear power to help reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants and curb its reliance on costly oil imports.

China currently has 13 nuclear reactors that provide about 10 gigawatts of generating capacity, and plans call for expanding that to about 40 gigawatts by 2015.

Nuclear power accounted for only 1.04 percent of all electricity consumed in China last year.

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