Last week, I reported on a couple of pieces of good news for the nuclear community coming from Europe. This week, Asia reasserts itself, with mostly good news, although there is also an additional piece of good news from Europe.
The biggest good news comes from South Korea and China. Specifically, South Korea has approved the construction of 2 new reactors at the Kori site. These are the first new reactors approved in Korea since the Fukushima accident almost 3 years ago, and of course, the first since the falsification scandal during the past year. This troubled backdrop makes Korea's move all the more noteworthy. It will be critically important, of course, to the smooth progress of these new reactors, for Korea to make sure it has completely addressed the roots of the falsification problem and that there be no recurrence of such problems.
China also reported on progress on resuming approvals for new nuclear power plant construction. China had previously lifted its post-Fukushima moratorium on new approvals, but the recent move seems to represent a further, more aggressive action, involving the introduction of more measures to promote the construction of nuclear power plants in coastal areas. China's actions, of course, are driven by its continuing, very serious, air pollution problems, and its efforts to curtail the use of coal, or at least hold it steady, despite the continued growth of energy demand.
The "mostly" in my subtitle reflects two factors--not all the good news came from Asia, and not all the news from Asia was completely positive. Specifically, Poland also made a step forward in their plans for nuclear power, and one country in Asia, Vietnam, confirmed a delay in their nuclear plans. In both cases, these are not brand new actions, but rather, are further steps in previously announced plans.
In the case of Poland, the recent announcement reflects a cabinet decision on some of the details for the planning of the new reactors, including a timetable for some of the critical steps and a recognition of the need for Poland to develop the critical regulatory infrastructure needed.
The news from Vietnam does not represent a major change. Rather, it represents a delay of a couple of years in the previously announced construction schedule for their first nuclear power plant. They indicate that this delay is a result of stock-taking they did following the Fukushima accident. Therefore, this news should not be surprising and should not be over-interpreted.
Overall, the year has started with some good signs for the nuclear industry--and, I might add, for the energy supply situation in the countries involved. It is a signal that governments are beginning to put the Fukushima situation into perspective.