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China Re-embraces Nuclear Power
October 25, 2012

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China has ended its ban on nuclear power production.

The Chinese Cabinet approved construction of new nuclear power plants and promised that new safety guidelines would ensure that the new plants, to be built only in coastal areas, pass tough new safety standards. Only a small number of plants are to be built, the government said.

Also part of the new plans are renewed safety checks of China's existing 15 nuclear reactors and 26 under construction. Building had stopped after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. A start (or restart) date has not been announced.

Despite its visibility, nuclear power accounts for less than 2 percent of the overall power production in China, the world's largest energy consumer. Coal and oil remain the two largest sources of energy, although the Chinese government has embarked on an alternative energy strategy, with a goal of 30 percent of power production coming from nuclear and renewable sources by 2016. Imports now account for 60 percent of Chinese petroleum consumption.

The Chinese government also stressed the need for private companies to help with exploration and development.

China's move comes in the wake of several high-profile abandonments of nuclear power, most notably by Germany. Japan is struggling to meet its energy needs but has promised a complete phase-out of nuclear power by 2040.

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