By the end of 2014, the number of reactors in the country is expected reach 30, bringing the total nuclear capacity to around 27 GWe. In 2015, capacity should reach 36 GWe, as a further eight reactors are brought online. 18 units are expected to start up within the next two years, taking nuclear capacity close to the projected 40 GWe figure.
In the near term the rate of new approvals is likely to slow down, because of a government decision to approve only coastal sites before the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015). Previously, a large number of inland projects had been expected to start construction before the end of 2015. Furthermore, China is focusing on third-generation technologies and this is likely to result in fewer new reactors being approved until these technologies are established.
The nuclear capacity target for 2020 is now 58 GWe in operation with 30 GWe under construction. This represents a significant proportion of the projected global new nuclear capacity over this period. But within China itself, nuclear generation plays a relatively minor part in the country’s energy mix.
Coal is king in China
By far the biggest contributor to China’s electricity generation is coal. According to figures from the International Energy Agency, in 2011 a total of 4755 TWh was generated in China, 79% (3751 TWh) of which was from coal. Most of the remainder came from hydropower, which accounted for 15% (699 TWh) of generation in that year. The 86 TWh generated by nuclear in 2011 represents only 1.8% of the total.
At the end of 2012, installed generating capacity in mainland China reached 1145 GWe, an increase of 19% in two years. Coal accounted for 59% of the new capacity in that year. Nuclear power contributed 2.0% (98 TWh) of the total year’s production, according to the China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA). Capacity growth is expected to slow in the future, so that installed capacity will reach about 1600 GWe in 2020, and 2000 GWe in 2025.