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China: Suspension of Nuclear Reactor Building Plans Pending Safety Standards’ Revision

(Mar. 22, 2011) China's State Council (Cabinet) announced on March 16, 2011, that the government will suspend approval of new nuclear power stations in the country until the current safety standards have been revised. It further stated that the relevant government departments have been ordered to carry out safety inspections at existing plants (13 are currently operating) and at those under construction. (Angela Charlton, Energy-Hungry China Suspends New Nuclear Plans, Caution in France, Spain, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (Mar. 16, 2011); Keith B. Richburg, China Suspends All New Nuclear Plants, Orders Safety Review; U.S. Plans Unchanged, THE WASHINGTON POST (Mar. 16, 2011); Wen Jiabao Presides over Meeting to Hear Reports on Dealing with the Japanese Nuclear Leak Situation [in Chinese], China Atomic Energy Agency website (Mar. 17, 2011).)

The government also stated that local authorities would monitor food imports from Japan for radiation. (China to Monitor Food Imported from Japan for Radiation, GOV.CN (Mar. 2011).) However, a high-ranking Chinese official reportedly stated that despite Japan's current problems with the Fukushima nuclear power reactors, China would not be deterred from expanding nuclear power generation. (Charlton, supra.) The government has also repeatedly asserted that China is unlikely to be affected by the radiation from the Fukushima plant. (See for example, Expert Opines: At Present Japan's Nuclear Power Plant Accident Is Not Likely to Affect China's Environment [in Chinese], CAEA website(Mar. 21, 2011).) A map of nuclear power reactors in operation, planned, or under construction in China and Taiwan is available at Nuclear Power in China (Mar. 1, 2011), World Nuclear Association website.

Other countries around the world have also been taking a closer look at their nuclear energy programs. Energy officials of the European Union agreed on March 15 to apply stress tests in plants throughout the EU Member States. The heads of both houses of the France's Parliament ordered a legislative investigation into the future of the country's nuclear industry, while Germany took action to close seven aging reactors. Spain's government has commissioned studies to determine the vulnerability of the country's six nuclear plants to earthquakes and flooding. (Charlton, supra.)

However, a spokesman for Indonesia's National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) was quoted as stating that four nuclear reactors planned for the island of Bangka, near Sumatra, “will be safe and more modern” than the Fukushima plant. (Id.; Indonesia's National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN): Presentation on BATAN [power-point], Regional Co-operative Agreement Regional Office website (Dec. 2009).) By contrast, in the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III has decided as a result of the disaster in Japan to make the development of non-nuclear sources of energy a priority, even though some Filipino businessmen have urged the government to consider putting a nuclear plant in Bataan province near Manila into operation. The plant was built under the former rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos but never activated due to safety issues. (Charlton, supra.)