The fifth and sixth units of the Fuqing nuclear power plant, which uses the Hualong One reactor design, known as the third-generation nuclear technology, got the green light from the National Development and Reform Commission on Wednesday, signaling one step closer to the export of Chinese nuclear technology, industry sources said.
"Though the project still needs final approval from the State Council to start construction, the green light will aid the bidding process in overseas countries, as it shows confidence in China's capabilities to develop its own nuclear technology," an unidentified source at a State-owned nuclear company told China Daily.
The concrete for the reactor at the nuclear project in China's Fujian province is likely to be poured in the first half of this year, the source said, adding that two-thirds of the equipment purchase order is complete.
The approval, which came after construction began at the Hongyan River nuclear power plant in March, is set to make Fuqing the first nuclear project that will use the third-generation nuclear technology after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan four years ago.
Experts said that the government is likely to give more "green lights" for new nuclear power projects this year, as the country wants to leverage its home experience to export nuclear technologies with independent intellectual property right.
China National Nuclear Corporation, the biggest owner of the Fuqing nuclear power project, is promoting the Hualong One design to countries with huge market potential such as Argentina and Turkey. The Fuqing nuclear power plant construction will also help the company bid for projects in these countries, experts said.
The Fuqing plant will eventually house six Chinese-designed pressurized water reactors. The first four units of the plant are Chinese-developed CPR-1000 reactors. Unit 2, construction of which began in June 2009, is expected to start operating in August.
The first unit of Fuqing nuclear power plant reached full capacity last year.
Remy Autebert, senior executive vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region at Areva, the French nuclear giant, said that China is accelerating construction of nuclear projects with 6 to 8 new reactors going on stream every year.
"Even before the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, China had outpaced that growth rate," he said. "So the country is clearly building more than that."
China currently has 22 nuclear power reactors in operation with an installed capacity of about 17 gigawatts. A further 26 units are under construction, with combined capacity totaling almost 30 gW.
After the Fukushima disaster, China suspended approval for nuclear plants in order to revise its safety standards. However, it lifted the ban on new nuclear power stations at the end of 2012, and said it would only approve projects proposed for coastal areas within 2015.
The Fuqing nuclear power plant is under construction. The concrete for the reactor at the nuclear project in Fujian province is likely to be poured in the first half of this year. Xinhua