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Asia

Asian countries push ahead with nuclear power

There are regular earthquakes and volcano eruptions throughout the entire Asia Pacific region. But the devastation in Japan has received less attention from the region than from Europe and the USA.

The explosions in Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant have many worried

The explosions in Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant have many worried

The Asian Pacific region is the most dynamic economic region in the world. And not only do the giants of the region, Japan and South Korea, have a huge appetite for energy, but so do the region’s many emerging markets – thus the high number of nuclear reactors in the area. Japan, China and South Korea are top producers of nuclear power.

In the midst of Japan’s nuclear disaster, China announced at the National People’s Congress that it will significantly increase its number of nuclear plants and hardly paid any attention to Japan’s disaster. China’s Vice Environment Secretary, Zhang Lijun, said that while China would learn from Japan’s crisis, "that won’t change our determination to expand our nuclear power facilities."

This nuclear electricity plant in Shenzhen is just one of many in China

This nuclear electricity plant in Shenzhen is just one of many in China

28 new nuclear power plants

Within the next four years, China plans to get 28 new nuclear power plants on the national grid. And the people of China haven’t been showing any signs of protest. On the contrary, in many Chinese internet forums, bloggers posted comments unsympathetic to the Japanese crisis.

Another heavyweight in the region, India, is showing different reactions. President Manmohan Singh told Indian parliament on Monday that the Atomic Energy Agency and the atomic energy industry will thoroughly inspect nuclear facilities to make sure they are able to withstand natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes.

Though he said that all of India’s reactors are to be modified and upgraded if necessary, he did not question the general use of nuclear energy. Instead, the Indian Department of Atomic Energy pointed out that the reactor near Chennai was able to be shut down without any problems during the tsunami of 2004.

Not much opposition

The control room of the Kalpakkam nuclear reactor near Chennai

The control room of the Kalpakkam nuclear reactor near Chennai

South Korea is also planning to upgrade its 20 nuclear power plants and to construct 14 new ones. These plans have not been met with much opposition.

Indonesia, is also no stranger to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcano eruptions, but it does not have a grid for nuclear energy. There are, however, plans to get one. Sympathy for Japan echoed throughout the archipelago as many Indonesians are also opposing the construction of a nuclear power plant in the densely populated island of Java.

Nuclear power in Iran

The Busher nuclear reactor in Iran is expected to start producing energy in April 2011

The Busher nuclear reactor in Iran is expected to start producing energy in April 2011

A further country in an earthquake-active zone is Iran. Their equipment, however, is less safe than the Japanese plants, says Dr. Behrouz Bayat, an Iranian consultant for the International Atomic Energy Agency. "Iranian nuclear power plants cannot be compared to those in Japan when it comes to safety and quality."

One reason Iranian nuclear power plants are so dangerous, according to Bayat, is that they are based on various technologies from different countries. However, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemed unfazed by Japan's nuclear crisis. In an interview with Spain's public television, Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran's Busher nuclear plant relies on more modern technology than Japan's. The installation in Busher is supposed to start generating electricity on April 9th.

Author: Sybille Golte-Schröder(sb)
Editor: Sarah Berning

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