Chinese Nuclear Ambitions Are Getting Scaled Back But Still Outsize US Plans

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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China is scaling back plans to build numerous new nuclear power plants, but the communist country’s nuclear ambitions are still larger than the U.S.’s.

Construction delays have seemingly made the country’s nuclear power targets impossible to meet. Four Chinese nuclear reactors are running three to four years behind schedule, causing a planned scale back of construction. However, China plans to spend $570 billion building more than 60 nuclear power plants over the next decade, which has energy experts worried the U.S. could be left behind on nuclear power.

China’s scaled back plans would double the amount of nuclear power while building extremely advanced molten-salt reactors, a concept America developed, but abandoned in the 1970s.

By 2050, China intends to have more than 350 gigawatts of nuclear power, having spent over a trillion dollars in nuclear investment. A gigawatt of power provides enough energy for roughly 700,000 homes.

China intends to bring 58 gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity into operation by 2020, up from the current capacity of roughly 27 gigawatts, according to World Nuclear News. China plans to follow this up with 150 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2030, according to the World Nuclear Association. In comparison, America currently plans to have 100 gigawatts of nuclear power in 2030.

China currently operates 30 nuclear reactors, from which it derives 2.5 percent of its electricity. The country plans to build another 24 reactors and will accelerate construction of a large commercial scale reprocessing plant to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

Globally, installed nuclear capacity is expected to grow 60 percent by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency, while American capacity will likely only grow by 16 percent over the same time period.

Of the 59 new nuclear reactors under construction worldwide to help meet increasing demand for electricity, only four of them are being built in the America — just enough to compensate for shutting down aging nuclear reactors.

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