BEIJING, Aug 30 (Reuters) - China needs to draw up new and “clear” policies if it is to avoid falling behind other countries in the development of its nuclear sector, a senior energy official said in remarks published on Tuesday.
Zhang Guobao, who stepped down as head of China’s National Energy Administration in March and now serves on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said Beijing needed to act fast as the likes of Britain, South Korea and Russia pledge to push forward with their own nuclear programmes.
“If there is not a clear development target, it will not only affect energy policy, but it will harm our country’s status as a nuclear power,” he said in a speech published on the website of the China Nuclear Energy Association (www.china-nea.cn).
China’s bullish nuclear sector remains frustrated by a suspension imposed in the wake of a devastating tsunami that hit Japan’s northeast coast and left the ageing Fukushima reactor complex on the brink of meltdown.
Earlier this year, China was expected to announce a new 2020 capacity target of more than 80 gigawatts, up from 10.9 gigawatts at the end of 2010, but the target is expected to be scaled back considerably.
A nationwide safety inspection of plants in operation as well as those under construction was finally completed earlier this month, but it remains unclear when new projects will be allowed to resume.
Zhang said the suspension of new project approvals was likely to last at least for the whole of this year, adding that China should use the inevitable slowdown in construction over the next five years to address weaknesses in the sector, including manufacturing capacity and technological innovation.
He said the government needed to set about rebuilding confidence in nuclear power, and also needed to recognise the impact of the suspension on China’s nuclear firms, including equipment manufacturers now suffering a collapse in orders.
Zhang said the crisis at Fukushima could provide China with an opportunity to “reach and overtake” the rest of the world.
“After five years of rapid development, we are building core competitiveness in equipment manufacturing, project construction, fuel cycles and other areas,” he said.
“If we don’t continue to move forward as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident, we will have fallen short of success,” he said. (Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)