A new nuclear reactor has started full commercial operations in China, the first new reactor to go online in the country since the Fukushima crisis in 2011. Following the incident in Japan, China had effectively placed a temporary freeze on new nuclear projects. But in October last year, China's State Council announced revised safety plans and a schedule for continuing nuclear development.
Report: China starts first nuclear power plant since Fukushima [SCMP, 18 Feb 2013]
The first reactor at the Hongyanghe nuclear power station began operations on Sunday, following successful tests in January. The reactor was previously scheduled to begin commercial operations by 2012, prior to the Fukushima incident that delayed China's nuclear development plans nation-wide.
The reactor is the first of six planned reactor units at the plant complex; by 2015, four reactors will be online, with a further two starting operations in 2016 at an adjacent site.
Notably, the station is the first Chinese nuclear power plant to use desalinated seawater for cooling, from an dedicated on-site reverse osmosis desalination facility.
The Hongyanghe plant also demonstrates the present maturity of China's domestic nuclear industry, using 80 percent Chinese-sourced components, and is a joint venture between Chinese state-owned enterprises.
China's Nuclear Energy Strategy
With the latest reactor coming online, China now has 16 operating nuclear reactors, with another 26 under construction. Most are near completion, with China expected to more than triple its nuclear energy capacity by 2015.
Although new nuclear projects were frozen after the Fukushima incident, as of October last year, China has returned to nuclear development. A small number of new projects are expected to be approved over the next five years. For now, China is only planning to build coastal reactors, meaning significant rescheduling for plants originally intended for inland sites.
Authorities have also declared that any new reactors must meet Generation-III safety standards, which are safer and more economical than the Generation-II and Generation-II+ reactors that make up most of China's present reactors.