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China opens nuclear power industry to private, foreign investors

Domestic and foreign companies will be allowed to invest in China's nuclear power generating projects but cannot hold a controlling stake, a senior official with the State Commission of Science and Technology for National Defense Industry said.

China is keen to boost development of the nuclear power industry. Wang Yiren, head of the commission's No.2 system engineering department, said China is considering opening the nuclear fuel sector to foreign investors. The country's draft nuclear energy law is being revised, Wang added. According to China's longer-term development plan for the nuclear power industry, nuclear power capacity will increase to 40 million kw/h in 2020, with construction work beginning on at least three nuclear power generating units in each of the coming 10 years.

Currently, there are 10 commercial nuclear power generating units operational in China, including the No.1 unit at Tianwan nuclear power station in east China's Jiangsu Province, which came on-stream on May 17. Their combined installed capacity stands at 8 million kw/h. The other nine units included Qinshan, Dayawan, and No 2 and 3 phases of Qinshan and Ling'ao. Four units are being built as the second phase of the Ling'ao project in south China's Guangdong Province and the second phase of the Qinshan project in eastern China's Zhejiang Province.

According to Wang Yiren, China's nuclear industry generated 54.8 billion kw/h of electricity last year, less than 2% of the nation's total. The government wants the nuclear industry to contribute 4% of the nation's energy needs by 2020. Wang said the Chinese government has strict controls on uranium ore prospecting and mining but allows foreign experts to assist Chinese geological authorities in their prospection efforts. Wang noted uranium was mainly distributed in two huge inter-continental metallogenic zones, which both traverse the Chinese mainland. This is encouraging for China's chances of finding uranium. China now has 300-plus research institutions and production firms devoted to nuclear technology, employing approximately 50,000 people. (