China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), the country's top nuclear power operator, is to start building the third phase of its Tianwan nuclear power plant in Jiangsu province from October next year, ChinaDaily reported on Thursday.

The two reactors (number 5 and 6), of 1,000-mW capacity each, have got preliminary approval from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the company said in a statement on its website.

Construction of the number 5 reactor is scheduled to begin in October 2010, according to the statement, without mentioning which technology the two reactors would use.

The Tianwan power plant is designed to have eight reactors, and it already operates two 1,060 mW reactors.

CNNC to begin Tianwan phase III, seeking deal with Russia

Once all eight reactors come into commercial use, the site will have a combined capacity of over 8,000 mW, by when it would become one of the nation's primary power bases, a CNNC source who declined to be named told China Daily on Wednesday.

The Tianwan nuclear power base will develop into China's third nuclear generating complex, following those built in Qinshan in Zhejiang and Daya Bay in Guangdong, the source said.

China and Russia last year signed an agreement for the second phase of the Tianwan project, under which Russia will supply two 1,060-mW reactors using Russian technology.

Currently, the two parties are still negotiating to finalize the agreement, CNNC said in its statement.

Analysts said the expansion of the Tianwan plant would help meet Jiangsu's voracious appetite for power. The province is one of the fastest growing and most prosperous regions in China.

The project has also changed the overall energy structure in Jiangsu. Before Tianwan, the province had no nuclear power, which is a clean source of power, Jiang Guoyuan, an executive with CNNC had told ChinaDaily earlier.

Jiangsu is now shuttering many small highly-polluting coal-fired power plants and has plans to further develop clean energy sources, including nuclear power, he said.

Located in Lianyungang in Jiangsu, construction of the Tianwan nuclear power project started in 1999. The first phase of the project includes two 1,060 mW reactors using technology from Russia.

With a total investment of nearly 30 billion yuan, Tianwan phase one was then the largest joint project ever undertaken between China and Russia.

The Tianwan nuclear power plant still uses second-generation nuclear power technology. China is now focusing on developing the third generation technology.

Compared with reactors using first or second generation technology, reactors with third generation technology are simpler in design, thus reducing capital costs. They are also more fuel-efficient and safer.

The country has set up the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp Ltd, which is mainly responsible for domestic development of nuclear power using advanced third generation technology from overseas.

China has signed a deal with a consortium led by the US-based Westinghouse Electric Co to build four third-generation nuclear power reactors. The country will use Westinghouse's AP1000 technology to build two reactors in Sanmen, Zhejiang province, and in Haiyang, Shandong province.

China has also signed an 8-billion-euro agreement with the French nuclear company Areva to supply technology for two other third generation nuclear reactors. Areva will supply two reactors for a project in Taishan in Guangdong.

China is planning for an installed nuclear power capacity of 86 gigawatts (gW) by 2020, up nearly 10-fold from the 9 gW capacity it had by the end of 2008.

The goal, which is part of an alternative energy development roadmap covering 2009-20, seeks to have at least 12 gW of installed nuclear power capacity by 2011, sources said.

China, the world's second-largest power market, now has 11 working nuclear reactors, producing 9.1 gW as of the end of last year.

The country, which had previously planned to have 60-70 gW of nuclear power capacity by 2020, or about 5% of the total anticipated capacity then, had 22.9 gW of nuclear power capacity under construction as of last year.

China is now adding more than 24 reactors, which includes five plants scheduled to start construction this year.

CNNC, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co Ltd and China Power Investment Corp, the parent company of the Hong Kong-listed China Power International Development Ltd, are currently the only players in the country's nuclear power sector.