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China energy arm plans to up nuclear capacity

BEIJING -- China's energy sector will table a plan to nearly double its 2020 nuclear power capacity goal and is urging firms to acquire uranium abroad to build a fuel reserve, state press said Monday.

The country's energy administration wants to increase capacity to 75,000 megawatts, up from the 40,000 it had called for in a plan put forward in 2007, the Shanghai Securities News said.

The revised plan will soon be submitted to the State Council, the cabinet, for approval, Cao Shudong, a senior official with the National Energy Administration, told the paper.

The 75,000 megawatt plan was 5,000 megawatts more than previously reported.

China currently has a combined capacity of 9,100 megawatts at 11 nuclear reactors, Cao said, meaning the new plan, if approved, would call for an ambitious program to construct new plants.

In the past year, China has approved the building of 40 nuclear reactors, Cao said, while the construction of several plants has already started.

China is banking on nuclear power as a cleaner alternative to coal, which currently covers about two thirds of its energy demand.

Chinese companies will also be encouraged to buy overseas uranium mines, as the lack of the resource is increasingly straining the country's ability to boost nuclear power supply, Cao said.

The reserve system will be built at both government and corporate levels, he added.

China's energy plans have given new hope to the global nuclear industry, represented by firms such as Areva of France and U.S.-based Westinghouse, while offering a market for uranium suppliers such as Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton.

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