China 'biggest' nuclear plant construction resumes

BEIJING(AFP) - China has resumed construction on a "fourth generation" nuclear power plant, suspended after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which will be its biggest-ever nuclear facility, state media said on Saturday.

Construction on the coastal Shidao Bay nuclear plant in Rongcheng, a city in eastern China's Shandong province, resumed last month, the state-run China Internet Information Centre reported, adding that the plant is "China's biggest planned nuclear project".

The plant, which will be cooled by high temperature gas, will become "the world's first successfully commercialised fourth generation nuclear technology demonstration project," the report said.

It is designed to be safer and cuts down on costs, the report quoted a spokesman from the China Huaneng Group, the biggest investor in the plant, as saying.

The plant, expected to begin supplying electricity to the grid by 2017, will have a final generating capacity of 6,600 megawatts, the report said, adding initial investment in the project will be three billion yuan (S$587 million).

The Shidao Bay plant "has been developed and designed solely by Chinese researchers," the state-run China Radio International said, quoting a China Huaneng Group researcher as saying the company hopes to export the design.

China in October lifted a ban on new nuclear power stations imposed in 2011 after Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, when the facility was struck by a tsunami, and will allow construction of a "small number" of coastal nuclear power plants, according to an official report.

Construction on the Shidao Bay plant began in 2011 but was suspended in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, the China Internet Information Centre said.

There are 15 operational commercial nuclear reactors in China, which has ambitious plans to expand its nuclear industry, with 27 reactors under construction near coastal areas, according to the World Nuclear Association.

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a report in October that the country's nuclear safety situation was "not optimistic," and that the use of differing types of reactors in Chinese plants made the sector "difficult to manage".

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