Dan Yurman of Idaho Samizdat penned an interesting summery of the situation with China's new nuclear expansion, and, in light of recent events and criticism, a slight roll back of these plants (from 80+GW to 60 GWs by 2020). Here is his entry. Quotes from his blog including the following:
Vice Minister Li said, after the occurrence of Fukushima nuclear accident, the Chinese Government attached great importance to it with quick and effective response.
“We start doing the following two activities:
1) Large scale inspection on safety of nuclear power facilities. This work started in April and will be finished within 6 months. Among them, inspection on safety of all nuclear facilities under operation will be conducted in the first stage.
In the second stage, we will carry out comprehensive review of the safety of all nuclear power plants under construction. At present, the work of the first stage has been finished with the safety check pace similar to that of EU and the United States.
2) Development of China National Plan for Nuclear Safety as soon as possible. The Chinese Government will suspend the review and approval of all new nuclear power plant projects before the approval of this Plan. "
Li has called for a major overhaul of China's nuclear oversight in the wake of Japan's disaster. However, regulatory developments are not seen as impeding China’s drive to build up its commercial nuclear fleet.
My comments on it:
I think it's worth while to look this blog because Dan quotes from "inside/outside" observers, Westinghouse Chinese engineers, former NRC China specialists, etc). It shows the real bottlenecks in this still exponential expansion of fission energy there and is a guide to those of us who want to see the US goes all out for non-carbon and nuclear energy.
Clearly the biggest concern is a lack of safety regulation, one that is both expert enough and, one that is independent enough from the purveyors of their energy plans, the large state and provincial atomic energy companies who are building these plants. There are 25 or so under consturction with 11GWS from 11 plants online now.
I think this is a concern but it's clearly recognized by the Chinese government as well. It is in my opinion the biggest "problem" with how the outside world perceives of Chinese nuclear plans.
The second area of concern Dan notes is the quality of the construction and the quality of the controls used for safety (all controls in a plant like this are 'safety' of course). It's unclear how much is domestically produced and designed, or how much is important from groups like Siemens and ABB. There seems to be a lack of confidence on the part of the western observers in Chinese controls and communications regimen for this tech. That there might be 'issues' with them. Unstated, but largley simply a 'trust' issue of unproven new Chinese designs. Some of this could be typical western chuavinism of course but real concerns of unproven equipment problably lies at the heart of this.
The third area of concern is simply the overall lack of trained personnel. Everything from welders to nuclear engineers [as Rod Adams pointed out on his blog today, there is a big difference between a Ph d. and Nobel winner in physics and a practical hands on nuclear engineer with experience in building or running a plant - not his words exactly but a stretch of a paraphrase of what he was getting at] to operators and mechanics.
The civil engineering involved has to be effectively "N-stamped". We're not building canals or bridges or high speed rail, but nuclear plant foundations, containment, and so on. There is no way to send some one to school for 4 years and they come out ready. There is a long learning curve for anything involved in practical applied engineering and operations.
About 15 years ago we had a delegation of Chinese power plant representatives come on tour of our plant in San Francisco. They were interested in everything, obviously. We asked them how they trained their operators. They answered that in addition to regular schooling of operators, they would double and triple shift their plants for years effectively over hiring to give people on the job training and then send them out to new plants (in the old, gilded-age original meaning of the term "Journeyman".)
China is also building massive training facilities including a "Nuclear City" reported on Dan's blog entry. Here is a description:
Plans are advancing for the construction of the first industrial park in China to help with the rapid development of the country's nuclear power industry, with detailed engineering and construction preparation work at the site in Haiyan, Zhejiang province, expected to start soon.
The coastal city of Haiyan, on the Yangtze Delta, has been selected to house the 'Nuclear City'. It is some 118 kilometres (70 miles) southwest of Shanghai and close to the cities of Hangzhou, Suzhou and Ningbo. It also lies midway along China’s coast, where several nuclear power plants have been constructed or are planned.
In Zhejiang province itself, there are currently five nuclear power reactors in operation and two under construction at Qinshan. There are also two reactors under construction at the Fangjiashan plant. By 2014, when all nine units should be in operation, electrical generating capacity will total some 6300 MWe.
The Nuclear City is expected to have four main areas of work: development of the nuclear power equipment manufacturing industry; nuclear training and education; applied nuclear science industries (medical, agricultural, radiation detection and tracing); and promotion of the nuclear industry.
On its website, the Haiyan Nuclear City said that it will be based on the Burgundy region of France, which successfully became an industrial centre for the French nuclear industry. Several small and medium sized French nuclear-related companies moved to Burgundy to actively participate in the global market.
The pay off for these endeavors, especially after the first Gen III and new Gen II+ reactors go on line won't be seen until after 2020, IMO. Once China has the base of 20 or so GWs of Gen III reactors online, and their new engineering schools start graduating students, I predict China will, by then, be ready to really initiate an exponential growth of their nuclear industry. Chinese long range plans, end-of-the-century perspective (gotta love real long range planning) is 1500 GWs of Gen III/Gen IV/Breeder reactors.