Despite post-Fukushima fears, China is seizing the opportunity to become a nuclear leader. Why waste a prime opportunity missed by wimpier countries?
The country, which is currently the world’s largest nuclear power plant builder, is reportedly planning to ramp up its nuclear-generating capacity sixfold by 2020–and it plans to export nuclear technology to countries in Asia including Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Pakistan, according to Spero News. What could possibly go wrong?
China doesn’t plan on getting so-called third-generation nuclear technology ready on a large scale until 2013. That technology is already used in Japan (not at Fukishima, though), and is purportedly simpler, easier to operate, and less vulnerable to core meltdowns. Unfortunately for China’s neighbors, the country is currently exporting its second-generation technology, which is more vulnerable. Second generation reactors are used in the U.S. and France–but they have recently come under scrutiny for safety concerns.
It’s hard to say whether we should be worried about China’s nuclear expansion plans. But this 2009 quote from Reuters may provide some insight:
“At the current stage, if we are not fully
aware of the sector’s over-rapid expansions, it will threaten
construction quality and operation safety of nuclear power plants,” Li
Ganjie, director of National Nuclear Safety Administration, told the
International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy. It would also undermine the country’s plan to
use more domestic technology and pose problems in the disposal of
nuclear waste, said Li, who is also a vice minister of Ministry of
China claims that it has tightened nuclear safety protocols since the Fukushima disaster. But as we have seen with its high-speed rail system, the country has a history of rolling out new technology faster than safety protocols can handle.