Nuclear Power and China’s Energy Future

An article in Japan Focus looks at the development and prospects for China’s nuclear power industry in the wake of the Fukushima disaster last year:

Prior to Fukushima, China had been pursuing the world’s most ambitious nuclear power program. Following Fukushima, this is still the case. Its nuclear expansion goals are primarily driven by closely related energy security and carbon emission concerns and, relative to its other power generating options, the fact that it is arguably a relatively environmentally friendly and efficient source of electricity.2 This underscores the significance of China’s decision to forge ahead with its 12th Five Year Plan target to install 40 additional gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2015.

This article argues that China will proceed with its nuclear power expansion, despite Fukushima, due firstly to its energy policy imperatives and secondly because it is relatively more efficient and produces less emissions than its other power generating options. In the next section, a brief account of the reasons behind China’s continued pursuit of nuclear energy is given. China’s current and future energy needs are put in perspective in the following section where projections for China’s electricity generation mix and carbon emissions up till 2030 will be discussed. On the assumption that the projections are reasonably accurate, the penultimate section will briefly consider the environmental implications of China’s projected power generation demands. Given China’s energy policy imperatives, the final section compares the nuclear power, fossil fuels and renewables non-environmental trade-offs. Some observations and policy recommendations conclude the article.

Read more about nuclear power in China via CDT.

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