China sets up nuclear safety committee to boost 2060 carbon neutral efforts

Rachel Zhang
·3-min read

China has set up a national nuclear safety standardisation technical committee, as it aims to increase use of nuclear power under its efforts to be carbon neutral by 2060.

The government last year set a target that China’s carbon dioxide emissions should peak by 2030, with nuclear energy expected to play a significant role in reaching this as well as the 2060 goal.

In the country’s latest five-year plan – which set out China’s economic and development goals for the five years from 2021 – Beijing said it aimed before 2025 to raise nuclear power generation capacity to 70 gigawatts, which would be an increase of 27 per cent from last year’s 51GW.

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China failed to meet its nuclear energy targets under the previous five-year plan covering 2016 to 2020. It had suspended approvals for new nuclear power stations in 2011 after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

The committee will establish “a strict and high nuclear safety standard” and “further improve the level of legalisation of nuclear safety”, according to a government press release on Wednesday.

Set up by the ecology and environment ministry, the new body will be responsible for the formulation of national standards in fields including nuclear power plant safety, nuclear fuel cycle facilities safety, nuclear material safety and radioactive waste safety.

The national nuclear safety standardisation technical committee will have 42 members, who will include representatives drawn from the nuclear safety supervision department, the nuclear energy industry’s authority department, nuclear power enterprises, research institutes and universities.

Guo Chengzhan, the deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, has been named as the director of the committee. Ye Qizhen and Du Xiangwan, respectively an academic from and the former vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, will serve as deputy directors. The committee’s secretariat will become a department of the ministry.

According to the ministry’s press release, establishing the committee is “a significant move to boost China’s standardisation strategy and deepen the reform of efforts for standardisation”.

“Strengthening nuclear safety standardisation is of great importance to the active and orderly development of nuclear power and achievement of ‘hitting carbon peak’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ on the premise of ensuring safety,” it said.

The China Nuclear Energy Association has anticipated that the country’s nuclear power capacity will reach 130GW by 2030 and 340GW before 2050. By the middle of the century, atomic fuel is expected to account for about 20 per cent of China’s electricity.

As China speeds up development of the nuclear industry to help it to fulfil its commitments on climate change, it also plans to build more facilities in the next five years to manage the waste generated by nuclear power plants, including contaminated gear and used components.

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