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China's nuclear path

China's modernization goals call for doubling of energy production by the year 2000. The world's No. 6 electricity producer, China is ''threatened by the shortage of energy supply'' in vast populous regions, says Lu Yingzhong, director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy Technology at Peking's Qinghua University.

Energy use of the average Chinese is only about one-quarter the world norm. Power shortfalls were estimated at 13 percent in the late 1970s, Professor Yingzhong says.

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Coal seams and dammable rivers lie far from urban centers. East China ans south China, where over one-third of the people live, possess only 2 percent of the national energy reserves. A necessary solution, say China's energy planners, is nuclear power. About 13 nuclear power units are projected by the year 2000, and about four times that many are planned by 2010. This would amount to 20 percent of all nuclear-generated electricity worldwide.

''There is no political obstacle, such as an antinuclear campaign, in China to hinder our nuclear program once it is started,'' Dr. Yingzhong says. ''Nuclear energy will be proved to be a clean, safe, efficient, and economic energy source in the framework of the Chinese energy system.''