China is set to launch a revised version of the National Nuclear Emergency Response Plan during national campaign to promote public awareness of nuclear energy and nuclear emergency response procedures.
The aim of the national campaign, which has been approved by the State Council, is to strengthen crisis management in the event of emergencies.
The revised plan builds on the original emergency measures which have been in effect since 2005 and comes in the wake of China's own nuclear energy operation and Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident, said Ma Xingrui, Vice Minister of China's Industry and Information Technology. Ma also heads the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA).
The plan highlights detailed command and organization procedures in the event of a nuclear emergency. The plan scientifically sets out hierarchical responsibilities, peacetime standby operations and rapid response procedures in the form of working guidelines.
"It's more practical, more detailed, and more operable than the old version," Ma said.
China maintains 17 units of operational nuclear power generators, whose installed capacity totals 14,760 megawatts. In addition to this, a further 28 units are being built and are expected to expand the country's existing capacity by 28,300 megawatts, according to CAEA data.
Despite such rapid expansion, nuclear power currently only accounts for two percent of the China's power consumption. Thermal power is the country's energy leader, accounting for 75 percent of domestic power consumption.
Ma said that China's ambition to boost nuclear power, as well increase its current rate of development, requires an up-to-date response plan to cope with potential emergency situations, including those triggered by external forces such as earthquakes and extreme weather conditions.
Underscoring the requirements of the plan, Ma noted that the Fukushima nuclear accident was caused by an earthquake-triggered tsunami – rather than an incident at the plant itself. The Japanese authorities may have failed to anticipate this possibility, which led to initial difficulties with the disaster response work.
Ma added: "It was a sad thing for Japan but I think that China and the rest of the world, including Japan, can learn something from the incident in terms of nuclear emergency response." He also noted that China's revised nuclear emergency response plan has built on the lessons learned from Fukushima.
This can be seen in China's coastal nuclear power plants, which have raised their bulwarks to 13.5 meters, much higher than the 5.4-meter walls at Fukushima, said Tan Jiansheng, vice general manager of the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), whose assets include Daya Bay Nuclear Complex, one of China's first nuclear power plants.
There is also widespread speculation that the nuclear energy awareness campaign will pave the way for more nuclear power projects.
The central government was reportedly mulling plans to restart China's inland nuclear power projects which were suspended following the events at Fukushima.
"We have the technological capability to build inland nuclear power plants and having evaluated the surrounding environment of our proposed sites, we are confident that there will be no problems," said Xu Ping, vice director of the Nuclear Emergency Response Agency, State Administration of Science Technology and Industry for National Defence.
Xu, while acknowledging the efforts of the central government to raise public awareness, urged the public to educate themselves about the benefits of nuclear energy.