Unit one of phase 2 of Qinshan nuclear station in Haiyan, Zhejiang province began to transmit power to the national electricity grid on 6 February, 23 days ahead of schedule. This 600 MW PWR is the first commercial scale Chinese designed nuclear power plant. A 300 MW indigenously designed PWR, the first phase at Qinshan, is already in operation. Yun Hongzhi, a China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) official, commented that the event was ‘ a milestone in the construction of the second phase of Qinshan nuclear power plant and in the history of China’s utilisation of atomic energy”.Full operation also proves China’s ability to design, build and manage its own nuclear plant and will greatly promote the commercial use of atomic power, according to Yun.

A further two of China’s six nuclear reactors under construction are expected to begin operation this year. By 2005 eight reactors are slated to become operational. This will bring to 11 the total number of operational reactors in China.

Work on the two Candu heavy water reactors for Qinshan phase 3 is well under way, with unit one expected to be in operation by end-2002. Ling Ao, with two 1000 MWe PWRs, the second commercial nuclear plant in Guangdong province, is also scheduled to start operation this year.

Unit one of Tianwan plant in Jiangsu province is still at the installation stage, with major plant slated for installation this year; and the earthworks for the unit two nuclear island should be completed within the year. China currently generates only 1 per cent of its electricity in nuclear plants, but is showing increasing interest, especially in the industrially fast expanding coastal regions.

Meanwhile construction work has started on the controversial Xiaowan project, a hydro station sited on its portion of the Mekong in Yunnan province and destined to be one of eight such power stations on that stretch of the river. The Mekong passes through southwest China before entering other Asian countries – Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam – who are worried that with the completion of the dam China will be able to control the river’s flow and the quantity of water that flows through their countries.

The Xiaowan hydro station, planned for completion in 2012, will have a total installed generating capacity of 4.2 GW at a cost of 22 billion Yuan ($2.6 billion). The first of the planned eight hydropower plants, the 1.25 GW Manwan, has already been built. Others, including Nuozhadu and the 1.35 GW Dachaoshan, are under construction. Together they will total more than 15 GW of installed generation capacity.