With a growing economy hungry for power, China will be increasingly relying on nuclear energy to provide its fix
In an energy mix that’ll still heavily feature coal and other fossil fuels, Chinese government researchers have said that nuclear capacity could more than double to 130 gigawatts by 2030. While that would be only about 10 percent of national power generation, such is China’s heft in energy markets it would still save the amount of carbon that Germany emits annually from burning coal, oil and gas.
Prior to 2008, the government had planned to increase nuclear generating capacity to 40 GWe by 2020 (out of a total 1000 GWe planned), with a further 18 GWe nuclear being under construction then. Projections for nuclear power then increased to 70-80 GWe by 2020, 200 GWe by 2030 and 400-500 GWe by 2050.
In April 2015 the China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA) said that by 2030 per capita annual electricity consumption would be 5500 kWh, and installed nuclear capacity would be 160 GWe, providing 10 percent of electricity (with coal 64.6 percent). By 2050, per capita consumption would be 8500 kWh, and installed nuclear capacity 240 GWe providing 15 percent of electricity (coal 50.5 percent).
Though China has been missing out on its annual nuclear targets for some years, the core reason dates back to the Fukushima catastrophe in Japan in 2011, which has slowed new projects and halted approvals. Despite that, China has made great strides in becoming self-sufficient, with the National Energy Administration (NEA) confirming that China could manufacture eight full sets of reactor equipment per year. In 2014 it also announced that China was aiming for world leadership in nuclear technology. Last year, four units green-lit for operation include the homegrown Hualong One reactors developed by China National Nuclear Corp and China General Nuclear Power Corp. They’ll still compete with other designs, including from abroad, and must prove themselves to be safe, but at the same time their approval is a clear signal on the nation’s favoured path forward. The first Hualong One reactor is expected to start operating in Fujian province by the end of this year.