September 15, 2015 / 2:33 AM / 2 years ago

China begins nationwide nuclear safety checks after Tianjin blast

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has begun a nationwide safety inspection into all its existing nuclear facilities in the wake of an explosion at a chemical warehouse at the port of Tianjin last month that killed more than 160 people.

A nuclear reactor and related factilities as part of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, to be operated by China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGN), is seen under construction in Taishan, Guangdong province, in this file photo taken on October 17, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The inspections will last until November and will focus on the manufacturing and utilization of nuclear equipment and technology, equipment used at uranium mines, and nuclear radiation risks, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a notice late on Monday.

China is embarking on a rapid nuclear construction program that aims to raise total capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2020, up from 23 GW at the end of July, and it also has ambitions to build its new reactor designs overseas.

Though none of China’s existing reactors has experienced any serious accidents, the country’s entire nuclear construction program was suspended in 2011 following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. A moratorium on new project approvals until early this year has put the 2020 target in doubt.

After Fukushima, Beijing promised to adhere to the highest possible “third generation” safety standards in all new projects.

But one high-profile third-generation project, the world’s first Westinghouse-designed AP1000 reactor in eastern coastal Zhejiang province, has been repeatedly delayed as a result of design flaws and tougher safety checks.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford

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