The development of nuclear power is a priority of the People’s Republic of China due to its imperative role, particularly, in the coastal areas that have experience a rapid development demanding the reliable and constant power supply. These coastal areas are far from coalfields depending upon a fossil fuel to generate the electric power. China began developing nuclear power in 1970. However, a rapid development in the industry has been experienced from 2005, with the technology majorly drawn from Russia, France and Canada. The latest technology of Westinghouse AP1000 currently in use has been adopted from the USA through Japan's Toshiba owned Westinghouse. China’s objective is to run fast reactors with the capacity to generate approximately 200 GWe and 1400 GWe by 2050 and 2100 respectively (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1).
This projection has led to an increase in the number of reactors to meet the power demand and break from the coal power being very pollutant. The Fukushima accident in 2011 resulted into a temporary freezing of approvals for new plants in order to evaluate the safety standards in case of a repeat accident with a new target being 58 GWe by 2020 (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1).Similarly, the National policy has progressed from a moderate to positive development of nuclear power in 2004 and to a steady development with the higher safety standards from 2011 to 12. The continued development of nuclear power stations in China was revealed in September 2010 by The China Daily that reported of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) intended to invest CNY 500 billion ($75 billion) by 2015 and $120 billion by 2020 for developing nuclear energy projects. They are aimed at driving the total output to 40 GWe (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1). This was further reaffirmed in December 2011 when the National Energy Administration (NEA) committed that China planned to make the nuclear energy as a backbone of its power-generation within the next 10 to 20 years to add approximately 300 GWe of nuclear capacity to the grid. Equally, a NDRC vice-director and a former head of the NEA stated that China would not diverge from its aim of adopting green energy and greater dependence on nuclear power with a large scale construction of nuclear plants scheduled to resume in March 2012 (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1). Currently, there are 16 nuclear power reactors in four different sites including Daya Bay and 26 ones under the construction in seven sites. Many more are being planned to begin the construction in nine sites spread over inland in China (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1).
The class visit to the Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station has given a full understanding of the reaction system, the technology, the knowledge base required and the safety standards that must be met. This occurred especially after the Fukushima accident in order to avert or minimize some future accidents (Bradsher 1). Some observation and interview methods were mainly used to collect the information from the scientists and technocrats working in different areas in the reactors within the Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station (GNPS). For a clear observation, one expert was assigned to take us round the plant after briefings on safety standards and putting on some safety protective gears to guard against any radiation. Then some major steps of a reaction process were viewed.
A random interview session was adopted with the prior developed structured questions directed to three respondents. Most questions covered areas involving the cost of developing and running a nuclear power plant, the technology used and the advantages, the knowledge base of workers, reaction agents, possible accidents and their effects as well as safety standards that should be adhered to. From the interview, it was clear that the Daya Bay Nuclear Plant had been the first major successful and profitable commercial nuclear power project in China. It has led to the development of more reactors. The plant exports 70 per cent of its generated electricity to Hong Kong, while Guangdong province was consuming the remaining 30 per cent (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1).
To understand the history of development of nuclear energy, the secondary information was derived from journals, books, websites and publications. This methodology helped to identify more facts on the system and benefit of adopting the nuclear power.
Analysis of Views on the Development of Nuclear Power Station in the Chinese
Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station
The successful construction and generation of nuclear power from the GNPS proves the level of success that such development projects can attain. The project that was started in 1987 and commissioned in 1994 (Nti.org 1) has made it the reality that the development of more nuclear power stations would assist China moving from the overdependence on a highly pollutant coal as a source of fuel in mainland of China an alternative clean energy for the growing demand in the coastal regions at a much cheaper running cost (Zhou, Woite & Hu 1). The availability of technology from France, Britain and the U.S.A. adds to the advantage; thus, this should be encouraged to make China self-sufficient in energy (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1). The best technology should, therefore, be adopted, which provides an efficient and maximum generation of power as well as adhering to the safety standards.
China has also adopted recycling and reprocessing of the spent nuclear fuel, which could present a storage problem in a long run as a result of the increased accumulation. This has formed a part of questions that students asked respondents during the Daya Bay visit. It was revealed that the GNPS produces approximately 50 tons of the used nuclear fuel every year, while the station has a storage capacity of only 10 years (“Nti.Org” 1). Currently, the storage capacity at the Guangdong bay is full. The wastes from the station are transported for over 2,500 km to Lanzhou Nuclear Fuel Complex (“Nti.Org” 1). The ability to recycle and reprocess the spent fuel as adopted by China offers the solution on the storage capacity. It is, therefore, apparent that in the long run, the storage capacity for the used fuel will not be a challenge if the reprocessing technology is used. For this reason, China should continue the development of nuclear power stations.
The reactors used in Daya Bay plant as observed during the visit are the standard 3-loop French PWR components supplied by Framatome, with GEC-Alstom turbines (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1). After commercializing the operations in May 1994, Hong Kong and Guangdong province experienced long power outages between 1994 and 1996. It had a devastating effect on the production and economy of two areas, in general. This forced Framatome to replace the major units to reconnect the supply again. The power outage has pointed out that China’s demand for power cannot be met without adopting the nuclear power having the potential of generating a higher voltage. For example, GNPS produces approximately 13 billion kWh per year, out of which 70% is consumed by Hong Kong and 30% by Guangdong province (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1). For this reason, China should step up the development of nuclear power stations to complete the plants already under the construction in time and start the construction of plants in nine other sites as planned in order to meet the growing power demand in the country. If the momentum is sustained, then the country will meet its initial projections of commissioning at least three nuclear power units per year from 2010 and four units per year from 2015 (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1).
Regulations and Safety Standards
Safety in the nuclear power stations is regulated by the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) which operates under the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) established in 1984. This is a body that licenses and regulates the operations of nuclear power stations and ensures that the international agreements concerning safety have been maintained and fully followed (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1). Both the NNSA and CAEA work together. That is, the NNSA maintains safety, while the CAEA plans the development of a new capacity and approves feasibility study reports for the construction of new plants. The regulations that must be met before any feasibility study is being approved by the CAEA, and the safety standards as stipulated by the NNSA guarantees the safety of workers and the environment.
However, the Fukushima accident in March 2011 has presented a number of lessons to be learned by all stakeholders. They must be corrected to avert such occurrences in all sites. The accident has revealed that different sites may pose different risks. The suspension of a further approval of the plant development has allowed the NNSA to review such issues as the effects of siting reactors, plant layouts and some measures to control a release of radiation (Bradsher 1). Further, safety checks have been undertaken immediately in all operating nuclear plants including the Guangdong Daya bay plant. Those under construction were also reviewed to ensure no radiation is ever released in case of such natural accidents. The Fukushima accident has also aroused a concern of the likelihood of the river pollution by radioactive elements; thus, this has prompted suspensions of the development of four inland AP1000 plants from 2011 to 2015 (Bradsher 1).
To react to the Fukushima devastation, the State Council in May 2012 has approved a new safety plan based on the report on civil nuclear facilities and asserted that the basic principle insuring China’s nuclear plant safety and the prevention of radioactive pollution is to set safety and quality first. Presently, it is mandatory that the Chinese regulations totally integrate the safety standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Similarly, the government allowed a public participation by encouraging comments on a nuclear safety plan in order to improve the transparency and understanding of the nuclear regulation. This helps the public to take some precautions to minimize future injuries (“World-Nuclear.Org” 1). All these safety regulations and interventions are satisfactory and demystify the opinion held after Fukushima accident by some members of public. This concerns the fact that operating nuclear power plants as a source of power is insecure, risky and too dangerous to pursue. Actually, the development of nuclear power should be embraced by all countries that need to be self-sufficient in their energy supply. However, the safety standards must be strictly adhered to. It is important to note that the World Association of Nuclear Operators has constantly approved the operation and safety measures undertaken by the management of the Daya Bay nuclear station. During the school visit, we have observed different awards GNPS won in the safety challenge competitions organized by the Electricite de France (EDF).
China’s State Council also has approved the plan developed by the Ministry of Environment stipulating a five year plan to ensure nuclear safety and prevent radioactive pollution as a part of the vision 2020. The plan has indicated that China to spend $13 billion on improving the nuclear safety in all operating reactors and those under construction. This is to harmonize the safety standards in multiple types of nuclear reactors and technologies.
As a result of increasing concerns about the world air pollution, a climate change around the world and deepening shortages of fossil fuel shortages and nuclear power should be viewed as an alternative to coal and fossil power in China (Zhou, Woite & Hu 1). It has been ascertained to be safe and dependable. It has such emissions as carbon to the environment. For this reason, a continued development of nuclear energy plants around the world will be addressing both the reliable energy supply and a climate change.
A major concern with China’s development of nuclear stations is that most of nuclear plants are situated closer to large cities. This poses a health and safety threat since millions of people may be exposed to radiation in case an accident such as that in Fukushima occurs. For example, the GNPS and the Lingao nuclear plants situated in the Guangdong province are closer to approximately 28 million people living within a 75-kilometre radius.
The development of nuclear power China began in 1970. However, the rapid development was experienced from 2005 with the technology majorly drawn from Russia, France and the USA. To give a clear analysis of this development, a visit to the GNPS gave a practical picture of a nuclear system through an actual observation and interviewing workers at the site. This paper has found out that the development of nuclear power should be encouraged in China, since it has the potential and capacity to generate a higher voltage of power that can make China be energy sufficient to meet its ever growing demand (Zhou, Woite & Hu 1). This is supported by the availability of technology from France, Britain and the U.S.A. Similarly, China has also adopted recycling and reprocessing of the spent nuclear fuel; thus, partly solving the storage problem (“Nti.Org” 1)
Safety of projects have become a priority of the country and remonitored by the NNSA stipulating the standards, while the CAEA sets regulations that must be met before any feasibility study approved. Equally, the State Council in May 2012 approved a new safety plan based on the report of civil nuclear facilities and it is mandatory that the Chinese safety regulations integrate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These measures guarantee the safety of workers and the environment. Other vital factor that promotes the development of nuclear energy in China is: the demand for clean energy free from carbon emissions; a persistent climate change around the world; and deepening shortages of fossil fuel. Nuclear power is viewed as an alternative with the potential to minimize the causes of the climate change