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In a first step toward a planned expansion of its nuclear fleet, China has announced that it will begin granting approvals for newbuild plants along its coast.

Licensing for new nuclear power plant projects has been suspended in China since 2011’s Fukushima disaster in Japan. At the time, the government said approvals for new reactors would stop until a national safety plan was developed and operational plants had undergone safety reviews. Work on four units due to begin the construction phase was also suspended pending safety reviews.

Construction on plants in the pipeline began again in late 2012.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) now says the nation plans to build new plants along its eastern coast, although the number of plants has not yet been specified. Li Pumin, NDRC secretary general, said the new construction would involve stringent safety measures.

China’s 21 operational nuclear reactors total around 19 GW, while 27 units which are expected to produce around 30 GW are currently under construction. The nation aims to reach an installed capacity of 58 GW by 2020.

Meanwhile, Chinese nuclear operator China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) this week launched the year’s largest utility and energy IPO in Hong Kong, selling 8.8bn shares and raising over $3bn. The firm has announced that it plans to use the proceeds to build new plants.

According to a Reuters report, China is considering merging CGN with its erstwhile rival China National Nuclear Corporation in order to better compete on overseas reactor construction bids.