China: no retreat from ambitious nuclear development plans

Despite a temporary construction moratorium in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, China is still planning to move ahead with an ambitious thrust of nuclear development—with a new generation of supposedly meltdown-proof reactors. The technology in the works will be the “world’s first high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor,” an official of the Huaneng Nuclear Power Development Co. told Bloomberg. The new Chinese reactor will not depend on external sources for cooling, but will instead use helium, an inert gas, in its cooling system, officials say. The reactor will be built to “withstand temperatures exceeding 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,912 degrees Fahrenheit) for several hundred hours without melting down,” according to the China Business News.

On March 16, in the wake of the Japanese crisis, China suspended approval for new atomic projects. A statement from the State Council read: “We will temporarily suspend approval for nuclear power projects, including those that have already begun preliminary work, before nuclear safety regulations are approved… Safety is our top priority in developing nuclear power plants.” The proposed “fourth-generation” reactor was designed and constructed by Tsinghua University. China is presently constructing 27 new reactors, which is approximately 40% of the overall number being built globally. This bold revelation comes as China becomes more concerned about the nuclear mishap in Japan. China wishes to construct 110 nuclear reactors during the immediate years to come, according to the World Nuclear Association. (Bloomberg, March 23; Newstabulous, March 20)

Chinese shoppers have meanwhile been hoarding salt, stripping store grocery shelves bare—in the mistaken belief that iodized salt can protect them from the effects of radiation from Japan. Others feared that China’s coastal sea-salt deposits would be contaminated by Fukushima disaster. (LAT, March 22)

See our last posts on China and the Fukushima disaster.

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