China starts first nuclear power plant since Fukushima crisis

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China's Hongyanhe nuclear plant started operations on Sunday, local media reported, marking the first nuclear power plant to be commissioned since the radiation crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011.

The start of the 50 billion yuan (S$9.9 billion) Hongyanhe plant comes after Beijing approved a development schedule for the industry in October, effectively lifting a 20-month ban on new projects in place since an earthquake on Mar 11, 2011 crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

The first unit of the Hongyanhe nuclear power station, located in China's north-east Liaoning province, went into operation on Sunday afternoon, the state-run China Daily reported on Monday.

With the new plant in operation, China now has 16 working reactors with more than 12 gigawatts of total generating capacity. It is in the middle of a massive expansion programme to boost nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts by 2020.

The first phase of the Hongyanhe plant, which will have a total of four power generation units, is expected to be completed by the end of 2015, bringing its total annual power generation to 30 billion kilowatt-hours.

The second phase of the project, expected to be completed in 2016, will add two more power generation units which will increase the plant's generation capacity to 45 billion kwh.