China Eyes Massive Hike in Atomic Energy Target

China announced plans to expand its energy sector on Wednesday, with nuclear energy as one of its main targets. From AFP:

China plans to nearly double its target for nuclear energy by 2020, state media said Wednesday, a move likely to reaffirm the nation’s position as a prime market for the global atomic industry.

The new objective is for nuclear power plants to reach a capacity of 70 gigawatts in 11 years, the China Daily reported, enough to power 70 cities the size of San Francisco.

The objective, if approved by the State Council or Cabinet, will be up from a previously announced target of 40 gigawatts for 2020.

These and other plans for wind and solar-powered energy sources are in part a response to the environmental crisis in China’s cities. From The Guardian:

State-owned power companies were stepping up investment to meet growing demand and boost economic growth as part of a government stimulus plan, said Zhang Guobao, director of China’s National Energy Administration. He also called on ministers to ensure there were appropriate measures to raise and save energy as well as using it more efficiently.

China is heavily dependent on cheap coal to generate much of its electricity but is on a drive to cut carbon and other pollution in its smog-filled cities by going at least partly green. Statistics show it consumed 2.74bn tonnes of coal in 2008, up 4.5% on the previous year, but the rate of growth was 1.6% lower than in 2007.

For more on China’s environment and energy sources, see this CDT post, “China 2008: Environmental Crisis.”

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