|Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivers a government work report during the opening meeting of the Fifth Session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2012. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)
BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Premier Wen Jiabao said in his report to the top legislature on Monday that China will "safely and effectively" develop nuclear power, marking the first time the issue has been addressed in a government work report.
In his report submitted to the 5th session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, Wen said the government will optimize the energy structure, promote the clean and efficient use of traditional energy sources, safely and effectively develop nuclear power, and increase the share of new energy and renewable energy in the country's total energy consumption.
He mentioned nuclear power again when talking about price reforms. "We will prudently carry out the reform of electricity prices by implementing progressive pricing for household electricity consumption and improving pricing mechanisms for nuclear power, hydropower and power generated from other renewable energy sources."
"The government work report is a signal that the Chinese government will resolutely resume the normal development of nuclear electricity," Zhu Zhiyuan, NPC deputy and vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Shanghai Branch, said after hearing Wen's report at the opening meeting of the NPC session.
The Fukushima nuclear crisis that happened in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011, aroused concerns among the Chinese general public over the safety of China's own nuclear power stations.
These concerns resulted in the suspension of the start of construction on four nuclear reactors that had already been approved. In 2011, no nuclear power projects were approved by the government.
However, Yang Qi, honorary president of the Nuclear Power Institute of China and a political advisor, said the country should not stop nuclear power projects out of safety concerns, due to the surging demand in energy consumption for economic growth.
"We should have full confidence in the safety of nuclear power," Yang said during panel discussions with other political advisors during the 5th session of the 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.
According to Yang, technologies used in China's operational nuclear power stations belong to the upgraded version of the second-generation of nuclear power reactors based on the French M310 technology.
With a number of technological assimilations and innovations, China's nuclear power stations in operation have adopted stricter disaster prevention and mitigation measures that are better than those used in most of the world's M310-based generating units, said Yang.
He added that the safety of China's nuclear power stations, both those in operation and under construction, can be ensured geologically, as it is unlikely to see major tsunamis at those sites.
Yang's remarks came just three days after Zhao Qizheng, a spokesman for the CPPCC session, said China will develop nuclear power in an "extremely safe" way.
The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) also makes mention of nuclear power, saying that it will be developed more efficiently under the precondition of ensuring safety.
China made its strategy for nuclear power development in 2005, and issued long- and mid-term plans. In 2008, the total capacity of its 14 nuclear power reactors reached 9.1 million KW, accounting for 1.3 percent of the country's total capacity.
Zhu Zhiyuan urged the top legislature to enact a nuclear safety law, as it is an urgent affair for developing nuclear power plants. He suggested the NPC make nuclear safety law its priority and draw experience from other countries.
He also urged the establishment of a higher supervision institution for nuclear power development.
Yang said that as the world comes to grips with last year's Fukushima nuclear accident, the development of the nuclear power industry is now regaining momentum.
The National Energy Administration said in February that it has launched a series of research and development projects to improve emergency response mechanisms for nuclear power plants in the case of extreme disasters.
According to the latest nuclear power development plan made by the National Development and Reform Commission, more than 70 nuclear power reactors will be in operation in 2020, accounting for 5 percent of the country's total capacity.
In 2050, the total capacity of China's nuclear power reactors will reach 400 million KW.
Special Report: NPC, CPPCC Annual Sessions 2012