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China hopes to build a nuclear power plant within five years
China hopes to build a nuclear power plant within five years in the Sichuan province, which was devastated by an earthquake in May, state media said on Wednesday.

A feasibility study for the 25 billion yuan ($3.7 billion) project near the village of Sanba will soon be submitted for approval to the National Development and Reform Commission, the China Daily quoted an official in charge of the project as saying.

"Construction of the station will begin once we have received approval, and will take about five years to complete," said Zhao Hua, head of the Nuclear Power Institute of China.

Last year, a team of experts visited the proposed site for the province's first nuclear plant, set to have projected capacity of up to 6 million kWh.

The team revisited the site after the May 12 earthquake, which left almost 70,000 dead and thousands more missing, and reported that its geological structure was sound, Zhao said.

"There were no signs of any subsidence or landslips," he said.

However, plans for a nuclear facility in the seismically active region are likely to spark safety concerns, in view of last July's earthquake in Japan that hit the world's largest nuclear power plant, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP. Although damage to the plant was minor and only a very small radioactive gas leak occurred, the incident caused widespread alarm, and the plant is still closed pending thorough inspections.

The planned nuclear plant in the Sichuan province is intended to reduce dependency on hydropower, which currently accounts for two thirds of the region's electricity.

"Although Sichuan has the largest exploitable hydropower resource in China, it still experiences shortages in the dry season," said Li Chongxi, deputy secretary of the Sichuan provincial committee.

The province is home to several leading fuel and energy companies, which the official said makes Sichuan an appropriate place to develop nuclear power.


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