How China advances its nuclear safety strategy

A decade ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a rational, coordinated and balanced nuclear safety strategy at the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Over the past decade, China has made efforts to advance its nuclear safety strategy through legislative measures and regulatory transparency.

On September 1, 2017, China adopted the Nuclear Safety Law, which incorporated nuclear safety as an important part of the overall national security framework.

An entire chapter is dedicated to the transparency of the industry, requiring the government to disclose the results of supervision, the general safety situation, the radioactive environment quality and details of nuclear accidents.

By June 2019, the industry had operated safely and stably for more than 300 reactor-years, and there had been no incidents or accidents at or above Level 2 under the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

Balancing safety and development

China’s State Council released a white paper titled “Nuclear Safety in China” in September 2019, further laying out the country’s approach to nuclear safety.

Safety is of the utmost importance and the paramount consideration in decision-making, it said, also highlighting the balance of safety and development.

Acknowledging that nuclear energy has unique advantages in addressing climate change and ensuring energy security, the country has been promoting the utilization of nuclear power units.

According to the China Atomic Energy Authority, China ranks third globally in operational nuclear power units, with a leading number of new units currently under construction.

China has emerged as a global leader in nuclear energy development as the world’s first fourth-generation nuclear power plant, Huaneng Shandong Shidao Bay Nuclear Power Plant in eastern China’s Shandong Province, went into commercial operation on December 6, 2023.

Global significance

China also contributes its strength to the world by promoting its nuclear safety regulatory system and sharing advanced technology, experience, resources, and platforms, the white paper said.

China National Nuclear Corporation announced on March 19 that it will open its scientific research facilities and test platforms, in batches, to international scientific institutions and nuclear energy companies for cooperation.

The first batch to be opened has ten key facilities, including the nuclear fusion reactor HL-3, a test reactor for medical isotopes, the world’s first third-generation underground research lab, and an advanced research reactor, considered to be one of the six major neutron sources in the world.

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing said on March 21 that China will increase technical support for developing countries in nuclear energy development and ensure that more countries benefit from the development of nuclear energy, making greater contributions to building a world featuring lasting peace and universal security.

Zhang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks when attending the first Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels as President Xi’s special envoy.

The country has ratified all international legal instruments in the field of nuclear safety and signed cooperation agreements on nuclear safety with Pakistan, France, the U.S., Russia, Japan, South Korea, among other countries.

“The amount of water a bucket can hold is determined by its shortest plank. The loss of nuclear material in one country can be a threat to the whole world. A concerted, global effort is therefore required to achieve universal nuclear security,” Xi said in The Hague.

(Cover: A file photo shows the exterior view of the Shidaowan high-temperature gas-cooled reactor nuclear power plant in Rongcheng, east China’s Shandong Province. /Xinhua)