China approves Tianwan nuclear plant expansion

BEIJING: China has given the green light to a plan to start building the third phase of its Tianwan nuclear power plant on the east coast from October next year, a government agency has announced.

Two new reactors, each with a capacity of one gigawatt, will be built at the site in Jiangsu province, the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) said in a statement on its website Wednesday.

The statement did not specify which technology would be used for the third phase of the Tianwan plant, which will eventually have eight reactors and a total capacity of around eight gigawatts.

China, driven by its fast growing economy over the last decade, has been actively building up its atomic energy generation capacity as a means of meeting ever-increasing domestic consumption.

The Asian giant is seeking to diversify its energy structure away from coal, which provides the nation with about two-thirds of its power needs but is highly polluting.

The government had set a target for nuclear power plants to reach a capacity of 40 gigawatts by 2020.

But some reports have suggested the goal could be lifted to 60-70 gigawatts, which would be necessary if China is to meet its goal of raising the share of nuclear power in the overall energy mix to five percent.

China's energy plans have given new hope to the global nuclear industry, represented by firms such as Areva of France and US-based Westinghouse, while offering a market for uranium suppliers such as Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton.

The first two reactors at the Tianwan site, which are operational, use Russian technology. Each has a capacity of 1.06 gigawatts, according to China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), a major shareholder in the project.

Jiangsu Nuclear Power Co, a subsidiary of CNNC, is in final talks with Russia for two more 1.06-gigawatt reactors, the second phase of the plant, the SASAC said.