International Herald Tribune
April 22, 2007
BOAO, China: China is finding it hard to obtain enough uranium to fuel the nuclear power reactors it plans to build, according to the country’s top energy official.
The comments by Chen Deming, a vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, came just months after China signed a deal with Australia giving it access to yellowcake from Australia, which has about 40 percent of the world’s recoverable uranium reserves.
“Where are the materials? I still have no answer now and am searching for materials in other countries, including Australia,” Chen said Saturday at the annual Boao Forum for Asia on the southern island of Hainan.
China plans to have 40 gigawatts of nuclear power generation capacity in place by 2020, up from about 7 gigawatts at the end of 2006. In addition, China will have a further 18 gigawatts of nuclear capacity under construction by 2020, Chen said.
“Altogether, China will develop nearly 60 gigawatts of nuclear power generation facility, and that’s a very large number,” said Chen.
The 60 gigawatts of nuclear capacity is roughly two-thirds of Britain’s total capacity.
Local media said earlier this month that China would set up a national strategic uranium reserve as part of its five-year plan for the nuclear industry up to 2010. China’s own uranium deposits, which must also provide fuel for its nuclear weapons program, are relatively limited so Beijing has been looking overseas for supplies.
Global uranium prices are now closing in on $100 a pound and could climb sharply higher.
Chen said that, in the long run, nuclear power was only a partial alternative to oil and coal because the world’s total reserves of uranium could never be enough to make nuclear a primary source of power.
The nation is drafting regulations to require the government and companies to build up emergency stockpiles to protect against international price fluctuations, he said .
China is building storage tanks in Zhenhai, Zhousan and Qingdao and in the northern city of Dalian, he said. The terminals are set to be completed in 2008. China completed a 3.7 billion yuan, or $476 million, oil storage tank in Zhenhai in October and has started filling it.