The plant in Changjiang county, west Hainan, will consist of two pressurized water reactors, each with a capacity of 650 megawatts. More than 70 percent of the plant's equipment will be manufactured in China, vice-governor Fang Xiaoyu said.
It will be built by China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).
"The National Developmental and Reform Commission approved preliminary work on the Changjiang nuclear project on July 18," Fang said.
Developing nuclear power is the best choice for Hainan's sustainable development, he said.
"The Changjiang nuclear project will boost Hainan's efforts to become an ecological province and boost its need for more power supply," Fang said.
Hainan has been suffering from power shortages since 2006, mainly due to its slow expansion of coal and gas-fired power plants.
The province was hit by power shortages totaling 390 megawatts last year.
"It was the most severe power shortfall Hainan had experienced since 1992," Lin Huifu, director of the provincial department of development and reform, said.
"Developing nuclear power is the only solution to our energy shortage," Lin said.
The provincial leadership first decided to develop nuclear energy in 2005. Earlier this year, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang expressed his support for a Hainan nuclear plant.
CNNC has already spent more than 16 million yuan ($2.3 million) on feasibility studies.
Li Jinying, director of CNNC's comprehensive planning department, said: "CNNC will formally start building the plant by the end of next year, and it is expected to come into operation in late 2014."
As the world's second-largest energy user, China has 11 nuclear reactors in use but they account only for 1.3 percent of its total generating capacity.
China aims to raise its nuclear power capacity to 40 gigawatts, or 4 percent of the total by 2020, but top energy officials suggested earlier this year that the goal should be revised to more than 5 percent.(Source: China Daily)