China launches new 650 MW nuclear reactor

BEIJING - China has launched a new 650-megawatt (MW) reactor at the Qinshan nuclear plant in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the project's operator said on Monday, as part of a push to increase the share of nuclear energy in the country's power mix.

Nuclear power amounts to 12.528 gigawatts or around 1.1 per cent of China's installed power capacity, but projects under construction are expected to raise the total to more than 41 GW by 2015.

China National Nuclear Corp said the new reactor had become operational at Qinshan, one of the country's first nuclear projects. The complex now hosts seven of China's 15 working reactors, and its aggregate generation capacity amounts to more than a third of the country's total nuclear capa city.

Before Japan's biggest earthquake and tsunami in March devastated the country's northeastern coast and left an aging nuclear complex on the verge of a catastrophic meltdown, China was planning to double its original 40-gigawatt capacity target for 2020.

It has since promised to "adjust and improve" its nuclear development strategy, and has said it will not approve any new projects until the completion of nationwide safety checks into existing plants and construction sites.

According to state media, the government is likely to resume approvals for nuclear power projects in the first half of this year after a series of safety inspections at reactors and construction sites.

Beijing's official capacity target for 2020 remains at 40 GW, and previous plans to increase the figure to as high as 86 GW are expected to be scaled back to around 70-75 GW amid concerns about safety, equipment shortages and the lack of qualified personnel.

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