No restart for three inland nuclear power plants

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Due to safety issues, three inland nuclear power plants -- the Taohuajiang plant, Pengze plant and Dafan plant -- have so far been on suspension for three years and counting.

According to the State Council's new deployment in 2012, they still would not opt to re-activate the plants even during the 12th Five-Year Plan period. However, the preparation and maintenance costs for all three would run into the billions.

On Feb. 1, 2008, the Taohuajiang nuclear power plant, Pengze nuclear power plant of Jiangxi and Dafan nuclear power plant of Hubei got the state approval to start preparations. By then, China Nuclear No.22 Construction got to Zhanxi Town of Tangjiang County in Hunan province and embarked on the civil engineering work.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake led to major problems at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant. At that time, the Taohuajiang plant had completed its groundwork and was waiting for permission from the State Council to start the plant's construction.

Only a few days later, the State Council held an executive meeting on March 16, 2011. During the meeting, the State Council established four regulations concerning nuclear power safety issues. Policies stated that all inspection of nuclear projects, including ongoing pre-construction projects, had to be suspended until the Nuclear Safety Plan received approval. Therefore, theTaohuajiang plant, Pengze plant and Dafan plant were put on suspension.

At the time, four billion yuan had been invested in the necessary preparations for the Taohuajiang plant. It costed Taohuajiang Nuclear Company and Taojiang county government some 200 million yuan to construct the Taohe road which has reached an overall length of 6.8 kilometers in two years so far. This road was created to directly connect the Taohuajiang nuclear power plant to the Hunan 308 provincial highway.

Hejian village was built for employees who would work in the future new plant, easily accomodating 8,000 people. Additionally, land acquisition for the whole project reached up to 4,467 mu (298 hectares). 526 families were resettled; 390 buildings were removed; and 4,715 tombs were relocated. 250 million yuan was used for the resettlement and in demolition compensation for the land. Also, equipment including large cranes and excavators need to be maintained, requiring additional resources.

"Nearly four billion yuan has been invested in the preparations for the Taohuajiang nuclear power plant", an official from the plant construction stated, "That means 200 million yuan will be spent on interest every year." Meanwhile, 3.4 billion yuan has also been invested in the Dafan plant of Hubei.

On Dec. 24, 2012, Premier Wen Jiabao hosted an executive meeting. The meeting discussed and passed the Nuclear Power Safety Plan (2011-2020), as well as the Mid- and Long-term Development Plan for Nuclear Power (2011-2020). However, the meeting also determined that during the 12th Five-Year Plan, only the inshore nuclear projects, passed through appropriate discussion, could be arranged. No inland nuclear projects should be arranged.

As the two plans were passed, inshore nuclear projects in Guangdong, Shandong and Jiangsu were re-activated. Meanwhile, the Taohuajiang and other two inland nuclear projects won't be continued for at least three years to come.

The Taojiang County's economy was gravely affected by the suspension. However, officials of Taojiang County indicated by the end of 2012 that the local government would stick to the idea of accelerating development and making efforts to build a strong economy in Taojiang County. Taojiang cannot wait for the state's policy, so it is necessary to clarify any future development work. During the 12th Five-Year Plan, they aim to introduce ten projects to Taojiang County, with the output value of each project worth more than 500 million yuan and bringing in more than 20 million yuan in taxation.

Same story happened to the Pengze nuclear power plant of Jiang Xi.

According to an official from China Power Investment Corporation's Jiangxi Branch, the primary work now is to train a professional team and to improve the professional skills of management and technical staff. The branch also keeps track of two inshore nuclear projects which are both under construction, in order to gain a better understanding of the state's recently established standards, technology, laws and regulations. They will analyze them and in doing so optimize their own construction.

Many equipment orders cannot be paid for due to the project suspension. Equipment like a concrete mixing plant system, used for actually building the plant, has a large output, but other projects may not need that much. So it is difficult for suppliers to sell that equipment.

Training nuclear technicians is currently the largest cost. A source with the Jiangxi branch said the company needs to keep operating, but without the plant operational revenues, employee salaries and daily expenses become a huge expenditure, and burden, for them.

It is estimated that each hard-core nuclear technician -- from his or her first training to working in a key position – costs about one million yuan. To run the four nuclear power units in the Pengze plant, 400 of these nuclear technicians and another 1600 workers will be needed. It takes three to four years in time and 400 million in money to train all of them before they are deemed capable of working in a designated position.

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