By Zhang Zhihao
China's Nuclear Safety Law ensures the appropriate treatment of nuclear materials and facilities, and reduces risks and nuclear waste, officials said on Wednesday.
It is the legal foundation that clarifies protocols, responsibilities and punishments for various government agencies, businesses and civilians when dealing with nuclear-related subjects, said Guo Chengzhan, the director of nuclear facility safety and supervision for the National Nuclear Safety Administration.
The legislation, which includes more than 90 items, was approved last year and went into effect in January. Some notable items include guidelines on compensating the public when a nuclear emergency occurs, work standards and operation procedures for nuclear facility operators and employees, and promoting transparency and education about the nuclear industry.
"The new law reflects China's rational, rigorous and insightful outlook on nuclear security to ensure absolute safety for the environment and people," Guo said. "It also showcases China's commitment to shoulder international duties and follow global guidelines when utilizing nuclear energy to build a sustainable society."
China has 17 nuclear power plants with 37 operational reactors, all in coastal areas, and is building 19 more reactors, according to the administration.
By the end of 2020, the country aims to have 58 million kilowatts of nuclear power capacity in operation and more than 30 million kW under construction.
"China had a late start in nuclear energy compared with other countries," Guo said, adding that the country began building nuclear plants in the 1980s, about a decade after the United States.
However, China is now the world's third-largest nuclear energy nation, with the highest number of new reactors under construction.
"Our nuclear energy is developing very fast," said Hao Xiaofeng, deputy director of nuclear facility safety and supervision at the administration. "Starting late has its advantages. For example, our reactor design, operation procedures and many bench marks are world class."
Most of the new reactors are third-or fourth-generation — some of the most stable and efficient reactors in the world, he added.
China also cooperates with other countries and international energy supervision organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency. "Many of our foreign colleagues will inspect our reactors to make sure they meet international standards," Hao said.
Zhong Wanli, a researcher with the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center, said China's Nuclear Safety Law is on par with the most advanced and comprehensive nuclear regulations in the world.
"Although the law is published relatively late compared with similar laws in developed countries, it has a much higher starting point because it learns and adopts from other countries," he said.