CANBERRA, Australia — China's rapid construction plans for nuclear generators will be affected by Japan's radiation crisis, but atomic power will be an essential supplier of the nation's burgeoning energy needs in the future, an official said Wednesday.
Chinese climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua said China’s nuclear power rollout was under review in response to the unfolding emergency at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, which is leaking radiation following a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
"I believe this accident will have some impact on the development of nuclear power not only in China, but also the rest of the world," Xie told reporters at a bilateral climate change policy forum in Australia’s capital.
"I think that the nuclear development plan of China will be affected to a certain extent," he added, without elaborating.
Chinese power industry official Wei Zhaofeng was quoted by state media on Tuesday as saying that China was likely to scale back its plant construction plans under a new policy that stresses safety instead of rapid development.
Xie said nuclear and hydroelectric power would be the major contributors to fulfilling China’s target of having non-fossil fuels account for 15 percent of national energy needs by 2020.
Beijing’s plans had called for nuclear plants to supply up to 5 percent of China’s power by 2020, but Wei said under the new policy, it would likely be closer to 3 percent.
Xie said geological surveys were under way in China to ensure that the proposed locations of future nuclear plants were safe from earthquakes.
Plant management and monitoring safety standards were also under review, he said.
"We have to ensure 100 percent safety of these nuclear power plants," Xie said.
But alternatives to nuclear energy such as building more hydroelectric dams also carry problems, including ecological damage, difficulties in relocating populations whose communities would be flooded and cost, he said.