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China Plans To Build
Hundreds of Nuclear Reactors

May 29, 2007 (EIRNS)—The government of China may be planning a massive increase in nuclear energy capacity, according to widely-reported statements by an official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's national economic planning ministry, in Beijing on May 27.

At a forum on China's strategic energy plans, sponsored by the Construction Ministry, the NDRC official said that Beijing has plans to increase nuclear power generation capability by up to 20 times current level, by 2030, the Associated Press reported.

Such an expansion would mean 150 or more nuclear reactors providing 20% or more of China's electrical power, according to a report in the thoroughly alarmed Washington Post on May 29.

Already, China has officially announced plans to increase nuclear capacity to 40 million kilowatts by end-2020, from the current 8 million kilowatts installed capacity of China's 10 nuclear reactors. The NDRC official proposed that China wants to increase nuclear energy capacity to between 120-160 million kilowatts. This project would involve an enormous construction undertaking, of over 100 new nuclear reactors, over 20 years.

Such a nuclear boom would make China the world's biggest nuclear power nation. The Post cited even bigger long-term estimates: an MIT report that says China will need 200 plants operating by mid-21st Century; and a target of 300 nuclear plants operating by 2050, in a report from Tsing-Hua University.

There are certainly reasons for China to give such emphasis to nuclear energy. The director of the Energy Research Institute of the NDRC, Han Wenke, said in Shanghai May 28 that China's demand for crude oil could rise to 550 million tons by 2020 — 11 million barrels a day, the Shanghai Post reported. This is a 230 million ton increase over demand in 2006. China will be able to produce some 150-185 million tons in 2020, Han said.

China is also now a net importer of coal, its biggest source of energy. Imports were 2.89 million tons more than exports, as of March 2007, China's General Customs Administration reported. Last year, China had a "continuous sharp decline in coal exports," due to export tariffs imposed by the government.

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