Work on Ya’an-Linzhi section of Sichuan-Tibet Railway begins
Construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway between Ya’an, in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and Linzhi, in Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region is set to begin, Chinese state media say.
Not only will the Sichuan-Tibet Railway accelerate and enhance overall economic development of the Tibet region, but it will also play an important role in safeguarding border stability, with the railway set to run close to the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh.
On October 31, China Railway announced the bidding results for the construction of two tunnels and one bridge, as well as the power supply project for the Ya’an-Linzhi section, indicating that construction of the project was set to begin imminently.
The Sichuan-Tibet Railway is the second project of its type in Tibet, after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It is set to run through the southeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one of the world’s most geologically active areas, state-run China News reports.
Starting from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, the Sichuan-Tibet Railway travels through Ya’an and enters Tibet via Qamdo, shortening the journey from Chengdu to Lhasa from 48 hours to 13 hours, the report adds. Linzhi, also known as Nyingchi, is located close to the border China shares with the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The newly built Ya’an-Linzhi section runs 1,011 kilometres and includes 26 stations. Trains are expected to run at speeds between 120 and 200 kilometres per hour, a Global Times report says. The total cost of the entire Sichuan-Tibet Railway project is £37 billion, it adds.
Construction of the railway is of strategic importance to China as it benefits the overall development of Tibet, as it will greatly improve transportation between the region and the rest of the country, and put Tibet on the ‘fast-track’ to catching up with other more developed regions of China.
The railway will allow for advanced equipment and technologies to be brought into Tibet, while local products can be brought out, says Xiong Kunxin, an ethnic studies professor at the Tibet University in Lhasa, in the Global Times report.
He notes that both Sichuan and Tibet are rich in resources that are unique to each provinces’ natural landscapes, with huge mineral reserves, and a wide variety of medicinal herbs. Furthermore, the completion of the Sichuan-Tibet railway is expected to boost local tourism all along the line, Xiong adds.
“It will also enhance person-to-person exchanges between different regions and ethnic groups, promote understanding and cultural integration,” he says.
The project is also of great significance to maintaining border stability and safeguarding national unity, Chinese experts state.
“After the Sichuan-Tibet railway starts operation, Tibet will have more exchanges with other parts of the Chinese mainland. Strategically, China's Tibetan region will have much stronger capabilities in material transportation and logistical supplies, Lin Minwang, deputy director at the Center for South Asian Studies at Fudan University, tells the Global Times.
Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, adds: “If a scenario of a crisis happens at China-India border, the railway will provide great convenience for China’s delivery of strategic materials.”
China starts building underground lab for high level waste
China has begun constructing its first underground research laboratory in the Gobi Desert - following more than 35 years of research - to determine its suitability for storing future high level radioactive waste.
As part of the support from the International Atomic Energy Agency, 35 Chinese and 11 international experts took part in a six-week virtual expert mission earlier this year to provide input, guidance and recommendations to support plans for the in-situ laboratory.
“The safe disposal of high level radioactive waste is one of the critical missions for the sustainable development of China’s nuclear industry,” said Liang Chen, Vice President of the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology (BRIUG), which is constructing the underground research laboratory.
China has been working on identifying a suitable site for a HLW repository since 1985, and since 1999 those efforts have been supported by the IAEA.
The country’s strategy for HLW disposal consists of three stages, with stage one – laboratory studies and preliminary site selection – completed in 2020. The second stage, underground in-situ testing, is set to take place from 2021 to 2050, following the construction of the underground research laboratory. The final stage – the construction of the disposal facility – is planned to take place from 2041 to 2050, assuming the in-situ testing confirms the area’s suitability.
High-level radioactive waste can remain radioactive from thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. The internationally accepted solution for its safe and secure long term management is geological disposal in a facility several hundred metres underground. A geological disposal facility is under construction in Finland. (Watch the video Onkalo – A Solution for Nuclear Waste for more details).
“The construction of an underground research laboratory is an opportunity for advancement in the science and engineering of geological disposal facilities and an essential component in a sustainable energy future for countries,” said Stefan Joerg Mayer, Head of the Disposal Team at the IAEA. “Despite the constraints of the pandemic, we were able to design, organize and lead an innovative virtual mission to provide expert assistance to China in the construction of this new R&D facility.”
BRUIG requested the IAEA to provide support on characterisation of the rock mass, as well as scientific research, prior to construction.
The broad range of areas covered resulted in recommendations related to construction, but also guidance related to the implementation of its laboratory R&D plans during the construction phase.
“This virtual Expert Mission was very timely as construction of the underground laboratory began this summer and it provided critical support to this effort,” said Chen. “It has made a great contribution in promoting the sustainable development of China's nuclear industry.”
Nuclear power, as well as hydro power and other renewable energy sources, could collectively replace coal as China’s primary sources of power.
China could have an installed nuclear capacity of 182 gigawatts by 2030, an increase of 74 gigawatts over the policy scenario’s goal, according to McKinsey.
China manufactures 70 percent of the equipment necessary for nuclear plants, and the cost for this equipment has been falling. If the country develops nuclear power to the fullest extent, by 2030 carbon emissions could fall by 470 million tons, at a cost of €3 per ton.