BEIJING, June 4 (UPI) -- China is taking steps to revive its nuclear power sector, which was essentially put on hold after Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis.
After the Japanese Fukushima nuclear power plant was knocked out by last year's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Chinese government suspended the start of construction on four nuclear reactors, which had already been approved, and didn't approve any new nuclear power projects.
That compares with the pre-Fukushima pace, which saw eight to 10 reactors approved from 2008-10.
The government-sponsored Chinese Academy of Engineering has called for increasing the country's installed nuclear power generation to 60-70 gigawatts by 2020 -- or about 30 gigawatts over the 2015 total, which is expected to reach 40 gigawatts, China Securities News reports.
An unnamed official with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. told the securities newspaper that construction is under way as planned on 28 nuclear power generation units in the country with a combined installed capacity of 30.79 gigawatts.
The World Nuclear Association says that China has 15 nuclear-power reactors in operation, with a total generating capacity of approximately 11.9 gigawatts.
Xu Yuming, deputy secretary-general of the China Nuclear Energy Association said last month that China planned to resume expansion of its nuclear sector this month and many plans were reaching the final approval stage, China Daily reports.
Still, any new nuclear reactor approvals would move at a much slower pace than before the Fukushima nuclear crisis, he said.
"The delay in new project construction has severely affected China's nuclear industry. Preliminary work on new sites stalled, while the manufacturing of key components has been delayed as new orders slumped," said Xu.
In March, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in his report to the top legislature that his country will "safely and effectively" develop nuclear power.
Meanwhile, Chinese nuclear firms are eyeing overseas markets, experts say.
China is the biggest reactor builder in the world, accounting for 41 percent of global reactors under construction.
"The combination of technical experience, operational experience and support that can come out of China will make China a leader in the global nuclear industry," said George Borovas, head of the nuclear practice at global law firm Pillsbury, the Financial Times reports.
"We are starting to see it already. Chinese companies are in the international marketplace much more aggressively than they were one or two years ago."
Industry executives expect China's nuclear power sector to rely less on the older CPR-1000 reactor, based on French technology and more on the newer AP1000 reactor developed by Westinghouse Electric Co., a unit of Toshiba Corp., The Wall Street Journal reports.