28 Apr (NucNet): China will use “very stringent selection criteria” when choosing sites for the construction of its first inland nuclear power stations and there is no evidence to suggest inland stations will be any less safe than those built on the coast, the China Nuclear Energy Association said.
The association said its own study into the possibility of building inland nuclear stations has shown their safety would not be compromised and that potential problems related to earthquakes and lack of water resources can be overcome if the siting process is carried out diligently.
In 2015 China’s State Council issued a notice suspending inland nuclear projects until 2015, citing what it said are higher risks in inland regions. Following Fukushima-Daiichi, the Chinese authorities decided to re-examine severe accident scenarios, and possible prevention and mitigation measures, before licensing inland sites.
This decision was based largely on lessons learned from the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident in Japan.
Like Japan, China has prevailing westerly or north-westerly winds, meaning any radioactive releases from a coastal nuclear station would be blown generally eastwards over the East China Sea or South China Sea. This would lead to less contamination of waterways, land and people.
Another challenge with inland sites is the relative scarcity of water resources for cooling. It is also more difficult to provide an independent second cooling water source in case the main cooling-water supply is lost.
Wang Yi’nan, a researcher at China’s State Council Development Research Centre, said advocates of inland nuclear development argue that there are no technological differences between building a nuclear power plant on the coast or inland – that it is simply tougher to choose the right location.
“The EU and US have built plenty of nuclear power plants away from the coast,” he said. “In France, 14 of 19 nuclear power plants are in the country’s interior.”
But Mr Wang said China is densely populated and prone to both drought and earthquakes, making the development of inland nuclear power “inadvisable”.
He said figures from the China Earthquake Administration’s Institute of Geology show that, since 1900, China has been hit by almost 800 earthquakes of magnitude six or above, causing destruction in all regions except Guizhou, Zhejiang and Hong Kong. Despite having only seven percent of the world’s landmass, China – where three tectonic plates meet – gets more than a third of all strong continental earthquakes.
China’s per-head freshwater resources are only one quarter of the global average giving rise to the possibility of water shortages and drought, Mr Wang said. “Inland nuclear power plants require a failsafe, 100 percent reliable and never-ending supply of water for cooling. Even if a reactor stops operating it still requires water to carry off heat.”
Construction could start on three new inland nuclear power stations in China during the government’s 13th five-year plan from 2016 to 2020, Mr Wang said.
The three projects under consideration are the Taohuajiang nuclear station in Hunan province, southeast China; the Dafan nuclear station in Hubei province, eastern China; and the Pengze nuclear station in Jiangxi province, southeast China.
The provinces of Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi do not produce coal and secure sources of energy supply are limited. All three provincial governments say they are in favour of nuclear new-build and are calling for construction to start as soon as 2016.
In a 2014 paper on inland nuclear stations in China, Jinxin Zhu and Gail Krantzberg called for greater effort to increase public acceptance of nuclear in inland areas. They called for formal regulations from central government to establish a series of public hearings for each proposed station.