17.05.2018_No97 / News in Brief

China Is On Course To Lead World In Nuclear Energy, Says Report

Plans & Construction

17 May (NucNet): China is on course to lead the world in the deployment of nuclear power technology by 2030 and should it succeed, China will assume global leadership in nuclear technology development, industrial capacity, and nuclear energy governance, a report says.

The report, by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says China’s ambitious plans for nuclear energy could see it operating several hundred power reactors by 2050, implementing a transition from pressurised water reactors to more advanced nuclear systems, and it may have demonstrated a closed fuel cycle at industrial scale.

China has “massively invested” in human and material resources needed to replicate the PWR-based systems that foreign countries had developed, the report says. “Thanks to these investments, China will likely become the world’s leading producer of nuclear electricity sometime before 2030,” it concludes.

According to the report, the nuclear share of China’s electricity supply could increase from 4.5% today towards 10% in the 2030s. Nuclear power will help reduce atmospheric particulate emissions to Western-country levels and demonstrate China’s leadership in mitigating climate change.

China may become an important global supplier – perhaps the most important supplier – of civilian nuclear goods, including modern power reactors built at comparatively low costs.

However, the report says that for this to happen, China would have to overcome severe technical barriers and achieve significant scientific and engineering breakthroughs that cannot be predicted.

It must, for three decades, effectively control the flow of funds to and from nuclear organisations and assure that costs are manageable, predictable, and comparatively favourable. It must develop sufficient public trust and confidence to permit leaders to make decisions consistent with their plans for the nuclear industry.

“If China fails, its nuclear energy programme may not sustain itself through the second half of the century,” the report warns.

Until now, China’s impressive nuclear development has relied on technologies invented a half-century ago by others and that China has replicated. During this century, China aims to replace light-water nuclear power plants with advanced systems launched elsewhere but never compellingly deployed before.

Today, the nuclear engineering sectors of companies in France, Japan, and the US, which supplied nearly threequarters of the world’s nuclear reactors, are in decline and their futures are uncertain. These firms are experiencing low-capacity utilisation, rising costs, loss of expertise, and waning political support.

Should China’s nuclear development remain on track, its industry’s anticipated massive economies of scale and high turnover will also put foreign competitors under even greater commercial pressure, the report says.

The report is online: http://ceip.org/2k6yAsO

Related reports in the NucNet database (available to subscribers):

  • Study: Health Benefits Will Offset Cost Of China’s Climate Policy (News in Brief No.81, 25 April 2018)




David Dalton

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