China carrying forward with large scale development of nuclear energy from US research that has been underdeveloped

China’s rapid nuclear expansion will result in it overtaking the U.S. as the nation with the largest atomic power capacity by 2026, according to BMI Research.

The world’s second biggest economy will almost triple its nuclear capacity to nearly 100 gigawatts by 2026, making it the biggest market globally, analysts said in a note dated Jan. 27. The nation added about 8 gigawatts of nuclear power last year, boosting its installed capacity to about 34 million kilowatts, according to BMI.

China has 20 reactors currently under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Another 176 are either planned or proposed, far more than any other nation, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Coal’s share in the nation’s energy mix will gradually fall to just under 54 percent by 2026 from its current 70 percent

China is building new conventional reactors, as well as investing in research for new next-generation hardware, such as thorium molten-salt reactors, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, and sodium-cooled fast reactors.

The new reactors are not that exotic, it is just that nuclear technology has been virtually frozen in the united states and other countries since the 1970s. There has only been the development of modular construction and computerization of the control systems.

Molten salt reactors were tested in the 1960s. It was actually expected that the boiler water and pressurized water reactors made in the 1960s and 1970s were stop gap technology before better systems were developed. During the Nixon administration the expectation was that by the year 2000 there would be thousands of nuclear reactors. Instead high interest rates in the 1970s, cheap oil, cheap coal and cheap gas and the increased cost from regulations from Three Mile Island froze nuclear energy development.

China is carrying forward with large scale development of nuclear energy from US research that has been underdeveloped. There are some startups in the US, Canada, UK and other countries that are trying to develop next generation nuclear. Most of the startups are more poorly funded compared to larger efforts in China.

China also has the advantage that the vast majority of all new power generation is being built in China. The US, Japan and Europe with 0 to 3% GDP growth only needs 1% more power generation each year after energy efficiency. China with 7% GDP growth is adding 5% more power each year. China is planning to double its power generation by the 2030s from its current level. China is already at about 130% of the US power generation level.

China is building and spending over ten times more on building new energy generation and distribution than the USA.

The US would be able to get closer to the scale of what China is doing in energy if the USA chose to replace all of its coal generation.

SOURCES- World Nuclear association, Bloomberg, Technology Review

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