Construction of China's first nuclear power plant this year is scheduled to start in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, with work on unit 1 starting on June 30, according to a statement released on the website of the city's ecological environment bureau.
As each unit has an average construction period of 60 months and there will be a 10-month interval between the two units, the first one is forecast to become commercially operational in 2024, followed by the second unit in 2025.
China has pledged to raise its total installed nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts by 2020. It also aims to have another 30 gW under construction by the end of 2020.
The nation had 45.9 gW in operation as of January 2019 with another 12.2 gW under construction. There is another 29.1 gW mostly ready for construction but awaiting final approval from the central government, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
According to Joseph Jacobelli, a senior analyst of Asian utilities at Bloomberg Intelligence, China may miss its 2020 nuclear generation goal, but only by one or two years.
"Plans call for 58 gW in operational capacity and 30 gW under construction by then might not be reached, chiefly because of slow approvals as well as delays in the commissioning of new generation reactors such as Taishan Unit 1, but China's target should be reached by 2021 or 2022," he wrote in a research note.
"But as nuclear energy will be a crucial tool to mitigate greenhouse gases and shift primary energy consumption away from polluting coal in China, much of China's strong nuclear power capacity growth will stem from forceful environment-related policy support and the nation views nuclear energy as a key form of clean energy," he wrote.
According to the website of Zhangzhou's ecological environment bureau, the city's nuclear project will use the domestically developed third-generation Hualong One reactor.
Jacobelli said he expected China to lead a surge in nuclear energy growth in Asia in the next five to 10 years.
"Nuclear power in China will rise exponentially in the next few decades and provide key developers with a strong growth pipeline. The energy source is a critical government tool to cut emissions and an essential one for the replacement of coal-fired plants," he said.