Shandong to Build Nuclear Power Plant with Safety Concerns
CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Wang Wei
China has relaunched its nuclear power project in one of its most energy-thirsty regions. However, as Japan is still suffering from the ecological and political repercussions of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, it seems natural for some to have safety concerns about the project. Is China's new power plant safe? How can those building it ensure it remains safe? For more questions and answers, here is Laiming.
The coastal city of Weihai in East China's Shandong Province has started building a nuclear plant to address a shortage of power in the region.
Power production in Shandong has been largely based on coal-burning, which pollutes the environment but doesn't create enough output to meet local demand. Each year a huge amount of electricity is transmitted from West China to fill the gap.
Despite the need for a nuclear power plant, there are also concerns about safety issues, as the world still remembers the catastrophic meltdown of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant 2011. He Yunsheng, CEO of the Huaneng Shandong Shidao Bay Nuclear Power Plant under construction in Weihai, describes the precautions his firm has taken.
"We have very strict standards regarding the location. The power plant could not be built in regions with frequent earthquakes or with a history of major earthquakes or tsunamis. The region had to be sparsely populated and easily accessible."
Even in perfect locations, low quality nuclear power plants can become a source of radiation pollution. Zhang Zuoyi from the Tsinghua University Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, says this will not be the case with the Shidao Bay Nuclear Power Plant, because it is backed by more than 30 years of research at Tsinghua University.
The core of the plant is made up of small spheres, each containing 12,000 tiny uranium dioxide particles wrapped in four layers of high-tech ceramic coatings. It is within safety standards to hold even one of the spheres in one's hand, according to Liu Bing, another researcher at the institute.
"We produce 100,000 such spheres in our lab each year. The process is perfectly clean and safe. We do real-time monitoring of the radiation level. The reading at this moment is 0.39 micro-sieverts per hour, which is at roughly the same level as in a normal environment."
Even with such safety precautions, operating a nuclear power plant is no easy task. A slight mishandling could spell a disaster, and that's why staff training is crucial. Guo Shiwei has been training at the institute for four years.
"I am training to become a shift supervisor, which is basically a commander in the master-control room. I am required to fully understand how this system works, and also to lead a team who can work efficiently to ensure the reactor runs safely."
The nuclear power station under construction in Weihai has been developed and designed solely by Chinese researchers. It has already attracted the attention of foreign clients. Zhang Tingke is vice CEO of China Huaneng, a shareholder of the Weihai project. He describes the commercial prospects for the technology.
"The project will most likely take 6 billion yuan to complete with research costs included. If everything works out, the commercial outlook is promising. Many countries in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia have expressed an interest in this product."
Zhang says the power plant blueprint covers different models and sizes to fit different environments.
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