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China needs nuclear power: former energy chief

2014-03-24 19:50 Xinhua Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

Zhang Guobao, former chief of the National Energy Administration (NEA) said on Monday that China needs nuclear energy to end reliance on fossil fuels such as coal.

"I believe we still should develop nuclear power appropriately because it currently accounts for only 2 percent of the nation's total electricity generation," Zhang said during a keynote speech at the three-day China Development Forum that kicked off in Beijing on Saturday.

China ranks 6th worldwide in terms of nuclear power output, but the ratio in its overall electric power generation ranks 30th, which was almost the lowest rate among all nuclear nations, Zhang said.

The country's nuclear power development came to a halt after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan in March 2011. China also suspended approvals for new nuclear plants and carried out a nationwide safety review after the crisis. The approvals were cautiously resumed in October 2012.

Despite the concerns, Zhang said the proportion of nuclear power in China is just too small. "Based on modern technologies and security lessons from the past, nuclear power can be safely utilized," he said.

China wants to raise non-fossil fuels in its energy consumption structure to 11.4 percent by 2015. "That goal remains very challenging because the rate was only 9.8 percent in 2013," Zhang said.

The call for further nuclear power development, in Zhang's words, was a key point in his suggestion on adjusting the nation's energy structure to authorities last year, when large parts of the country were troubled by smog. "Apparently, coal burning and vehicle exhaust are both major causes to the smog," Zhang said.

Official data showed coal accounted for 65.7 percent of energy consumption in China in 2013. The nation's total installed capacity for nuclear power stood at 14.61 million kilowatts as of the end of 2013, far smaller compared to 860 million kilowatts for thermal power plants.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang also said on Sunday that China will control total energy consumption with higher efficiency, while optimizing the industrial structure with smart power grids and clean energy like wind power, nuclear power, hydropower and photovoltaic.

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