China approves $10bn plan to build four nuclear reactors

China has approved the construction of four nuclear reactors, two in coastal Zhejiang Province and two on the southeastern island of Hainan, at an estimated cost of $10.2bn.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, cleared the way at the end of last week for the construction of the reactors, following a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

The Zhejiang duo will form a new nuclear plant at San’ao, and the Hainan pair will form an extension of the Changjiang plant in Hainan province.

The council commented in an official statement: "Pushing forward the construction of nuclear power projects actively and steadily is an important measure to expand effective investment, enhance energy support and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

All four units will be of the 1,090MW, pressurised-water Hualong design, developed by China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN). This is the most common type of reactor presently under construction in China, and forms the basis of the country’s nuclear export drive.

The country last year launched three nuclear power plants in the provinces of Shandong, Fujian and Guangdong, ending a pause in new nuclear projects that followed a decision in 2015 to greenlight eight reactors.

That decision itself followed another pause brought by global uncertainty over the safety of nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

World Nuclear News reports that the Changjiang units will be built by a joint venture between China National Nuclear Corporation and China Huaneng Group. Huaneng will hold a 51% stake in the project through its Huaneng Nuclear Power Development subsidiary. Construction of unit 3 is scheduled to be completed in 2025, with unit 4 following in 2026.

The San’ao project will be the first to make use of private investment. Chinese manufacturer Geely Technology Group, best known as a maker of cars and satellites, will take a 2% stake in the plant.

CGN holds 46% of the shares of project company Cangnan Nuclear Power, with other state-owned enterprises holding the remainder. Work is expected to be complete in 2025.

China now plans to build six-to-eight nuclear reactors a year between 2020 and 2025, raising total capacity to 70GW, compared to 52GW at the end of this year.

China is expected to have a total of 34 nuclear units in operation and 17 under construction by the end of 2020.

Image: China Huaneng Group’s rendering of the completed site at Changjiang

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