IEEE Spectrum on China’s Nuclear Energy Programme

IEEE Spectrum – China desperately needs alternatives to coal-fired power.

So Beijing has launched an aggressive plan to decarbonize China’s economy by pushing nuclear and renewable energy to 15 percent of energy consumption by 2020, up from 9.5 percent last year. Nuclear generating capacity would rise to over 80 gigawatts from the 11.3 GW currently in place. As a result, analysts expect China to meet its environmental goal for 2020: to reduce carbon emissions per yuan of economic output by 40 percent compared with 2005 levels.

To meet its nuclear numbers, China has embarked on the world’s biggest reactor building program. Beijing has standardized its nuclear juggernaut around two pressurized water reactor designs: the Chinese/French CPR-1000, designed in the 1990s, and Westinghouse Electric’s AP1000, designed in the 2000s. The country is turning both types out at high speed. According to the World Nuclear Association, 14 reactors were operating as of September, and 26 more were under construction. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has said that 100 reactors may be feeding the grid by 2020

China’s state-owned utilities have raced far ahead of Beijing’s official goals for renewable energy. More than 40 GW of wind power was installed by the end of 2010, smashing the 5 GW target set by Beijing three years earlier.

China’s investments could transform the country by midcentury. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report projects that China could install as much as 550 GW of nuclear capacity and 970 GW of wind, hydro, and solar power by 2050. Combined with energy efficiency upgrades, that surge of low-carbon electricity would slash China’s annual CO2 emissions from power generation to nearly one-fifth their current level


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