The nuclear crisis in Japan has already had a worldwide effect on nuclear policy. Germany is accelerating plans to close nuclear power plants, Italy has halted plans to build more, and many U.S. politicians have called for a moratorium on nuclear power in the States. Now China, the world’s largest consumer of energy, just announced that the country is cutting its 2020 plans for more nuclear power, and instead putting the money toward building more solar farms. China’s National Development and Reform Commission said that this decision is a direct result of the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
During a conference on April 1, officials announced that China will reduce its nuclear power goal of 80 gigawatts and increase its solar power goal of 20 GW. Exact new targets were not specified. The slowdown of nuclear power is meant to ensure that future nuclear developments are safer — it does not mean that China is changing its long-term goals in regards to nuclear power.
An energy analysist told Bloomberg that the country simply uses too much energy to completely change its plans. “We can see delays in some projects, but in the longer term, I don’t see how they can change the program they have in place without facing drastic power shortages,” said David Lennox, an analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney. “It’s difficult to see what their alternatives to nuclear are.” To put things in perspective, Chinese households consumed nearly 4.2 million GW-hours last year.
On March 1, ten days before the earthquake, the Chinese government approved a proposal by the Huaneng Group to build a 4,000-megawatt nuclear power plant. The group is parent to Huaneng Power International Inc., China’s largest power producer. Company chairman Cao Peixi said that they will not alter their nuclear plans just because of Japan.
China currently has 14 nuclear plants in operation, and 27 reactors in construction, with plans for 50 more. According to reports from the 21st Century Business Herald, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and National Nuclear Safety Administration may start a nationwide inspection of nuclear plants that may last for several months.