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Response Plan to Tackle Nuclear Emergencies
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To ensure any nuclear accidents are handled appropriately and to safeguard nuclear facilities, including those used by the military, an emergency response plan will be introduced during the next five years.


Approved yesterday the system will operate at national, provincial-municipal and power operator levels, according to the five-year plan (2006-10) of the National Coordinating Committee for Nuclear Emergency (NCCNE). Full details will be released soon.


At least 10 technical support centers and four rescue teams will be set up nationwide to improve the capabilities for handling nuclear emergencies.


They'll help in monitoring, radiation protection, decontamination and environmental evaluation in emergencies including terrorist attacks.


NCCNE Director Sun Qin, also director of the National Atomic Energy Authority, said the plan was timely as the current response measures fell behind the development of the nuclear industry.


The country has 10 nuclear generators in commercial operation with a total capacity of about 8 million kilowatts. One generator with a capacity of 1.06 million kilowatts is in trial operation and eight others with a combined capacity of at least 7.3 million kilowatts are being built.


This year, two nuclear plants each with two reactors, will be built in northeast China's Liaoning Province and east China's Shandong Province.


NCCNE figures show that by 2020 the nation plans to increase the total capacity of nuclear power plants to 40 million kilowatts or 4 percent of energy requirements -- up from the current 2 percent. This means China needs to build another 20 or so 1-million-kilowatt units over 14 years.


Faced with such rapid development, a detailed and integrated emergency response system was needed as "safety is the lifeline of the nuclear industry," Sun said.


China produced guidelines on the management of nuclear power plants in 1986 and has set up a preliminary emergency response system for power plants. The nation has a good safety record in the nuclear sector with no operational accidents having occurred.


Sun said a tragedy such as Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine) in 1986 would not happen in China.


Nuclear reactors in China were heavy water reactors which are safer in design, structure and operation than the graphite-moderated or boiling water reactors at Chernobyl, he said.


But Sun warned that the existing emergency response system wasn't adequate and didn't cover military and other civil nuclear facilities such as research laboratories or storage depots.


The plan advises that special attention be paid to military nuclear facilities, particularly by provinces where they are concentrated such as Sichuan, Gansu and Liaoning.


(China Daily June 29, 2006)

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