Chinese scientists say they have developed nuclear fuel reprocessing technology that could effectively end uranium supply concerns, state media said Monday, as Beijing strives for energy security.
The technology, developed by state-run China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) in the remote northwestern province of Gansu, enables the country to re-use irradiated nuclear fuel, China Central Television said.
“China’s proven uranium sources will last only 50 to 70 years, but this now changes to 3,000 years,” said the report, which provided scant details on what it described as a “breakthrough.”
Other countries have already developed technology to reprocess spent fuel, which is extremely costly.
“Globally, within the nuclear fuel industry, we’re one of a minority of countries that can do the nuclear fuel cycle,” Sun Qin, general manager of CNNC, was quoted as saying in the report.
The development would be an important step forward in China’s plans to increase the share of alternative power sources in its energy mix to reduce pollution and achieve energy security.
It has stepped up investment in nuclear power in an effort to slash carbon emissions and scale down the nation’s heavy reliance on polluting coal, which accounts for 70 percent of its power needs.
China, now the world’s second-largest economy after surpassing Japan in 2010, aims to get 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.
It aims to increase nuclear power capacity to 70-80 gigawatts by 2020, accounting for about five percent of the country’s total installed power capacity, state press reports have said.
The government said previously the target was 40 gigawatts.
China, which currently has 13 nuclear reactors in operation, produces around 750 tonnes of uranium a year but annual demand could rise to 20,000 tonnes a year by 2020, the China Daily newspaper has said.