Chinese experts dismiss plans for Russian nuclear plant in Harbin

A proposal for Russian nuclear firm Rosatom to build inland reactors in north-east China is unlikely to win backing from central government, say energy experts

Chinese energy experts have poured scorn on proposals for a Russian-built nuclear power plant in the country’s north-eastern city of Harbin.

State nuclear company Rosatom is considering a Chinese proposal to construct new reactors at an inland site in Heilongjiang province, according to a Russian news report, which was republished on the website of China’s commerce ministry.

The story has received a sceptical reception in the Chinese media, with one report pointing out that there is already an electricity surplus in the north-east and so no need to build nuclear power plants.

Industry experts have also expressed doubt about the plan. He Zuoxiu, a former state nuclear physicist and prominent critic of China’s nuclear strategy, told chinadialogue that “the Central Committee [of the Communist Party of China] won’t approve it,” and said the idea was likely  to have originated from local government. He, who is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has long argued that it would be dangerous for China to build nuclear plants inland. Current policy only permits construction on the coast.

He continued: “Russia has better technology for inland nuclear power plants than we do, but it’s not just a matter of technology—there’s also management systems and experience. We don’t have that experience and if we rush in then there are very real safety concerns.”

Tao Guangyuan, executive director of the Sino-German Renewable Energy Cooperation Centre, is also doubtful that the plans will go ahead. He said safety was a “major concern” following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Tao added that China is currently trialling third-generation reactor technology imported from the US, and that if inland nuclear power plants are to be built it is the more stable third-generation, or even fourth-generation, reactor designs that should be used.  

The Fukushima crisis led to a 19-month moratorium on nuclear power construction in China, which ended last year.