CHINA'S NUCLEAR POWER - 2017
WNA - Nuclear Power in China
- Mainland China has 38 nuclear power reactors in operation, about 20 under construction, and more about to start construction.
- The reactors under construction include some of the world's most advanced, to give a 70% increase of nuclear capacity to 58 GWe by 2020-21. Plans are for up to 150 GWe by 2030, and much more by 2050.
- The impetus for nuclear power in China is increasingly due to air pollution from coal-fired plants.
- China’s policy is to have a closed nuclear fuel cycle.
- China has become largely self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle, but is making full use of western technology while adapting and improving it.
- Relative to the rest of the world, a major strength is the nuclear supply chain.
China’s policy is to ‘go global’ with exporting nuclear technology including heavy components in the supply chain.
Most of mainland China's electricity is produced from fossil fuels, predominantly from coal – 73% in 2015. Two large hydro projects are recent additions: Three Gorges of 18.2 GWe and Yellow River of 15.8 GWe. Wind capacity in 2015 was 8.6% of total, but delivering only 3.3% of the electricity.
Rapid growth in demand has given rise to power shortages, and the reliance on fossil fuels has led to much air pollution. The economic loss due to pollution is put by the World Bank at almost 6% of GDP,1 and the new leadership from March 2013 has prioritised this.* Chronic and widespread smog in the east of the country is attributed to coal burning.
* Official measurements of fine particles in the air measuring less than 2.5 micrometres, which pose the greatest health risk, rose to a record 993 micrograms per cubic metre in Beijing on 12 January 2013, compared with World Health Organization guidelines of no higher than 25.
The IEA notes that since 2012, China has been the country with the largest installed power capacity, and it has increased this by 14% since then to reach 1,245 GWe in 2014, or 21% of global capacity, slightly ahead of the United States (20%). The age structures of the power plants in these two countries differ remarkably: in China almost 70% (865 GWe) was built within the last decade, whereas in the United States half of the fleet (580 GWe) was over 30 years old.
In August 2013 the State Council said that China should reduce its carbon emissions by 40-45% by 2020 from 2005 levels, and would aim to boost renewable energy to 15% of its total primary energy consumption by 2020. In 2012 China was the world’s largest source of carbon emissions – 2626 MtC (9.64 Gt CO2), and its increment that year comprised about 70% of world total increase. In March 2014 the Premier said that the government was declaring “war on pollution” and would accelerate closing coal-fired power stations.
In November 2014 the Premier announced that China intended about 20% of its primary energy consumption to be from non-fossil fuels by 2030, at which time it intended its peak of CO2 emissions to occur. This 20% target is part of the 13th Five-Year Plan and was reiterated by the president at the Paris climate change conference in December 2015, along with reducing CO2 emissions by 60 to 65% from 2005 levels by 2030. This means that China’s energy growth has entered a ‘new normal’ phase including environmental protection, and to address this, vigorous development of nuclear power is required. By 2030 nuclear capacity will be 120 to 150 GWe, and nuclear will provide 8% to 10% of electricity.
In the 13th Five-Year Plan for power production announced by the NEA in November 2016, by 2020 coal capacity will be limited to 1100 GWe by cancelling and postponing about 150 GWe of projects. Gas in 2020 is projected at 110 GWe, hydro 340 GWe, wind 210 GWe, and solar 110 GWe of which distributed PV is to be 60 GWe. Nuclear 58 GWe was reiterated for 2020. Non-fossil 770 GWe will then produce 15% of electricity.
The February 2015 edition of the BP Energy Outlook 2035 projects that by 2035 China becomes the world’s largest energy importer, overtaking Europe, as import dependence rises from 15% to 23%. China’s energy production rises by 47% while consumption grows by 60%. China’s fossil fuel output continues to rise with increases in natural gas (+200%) and coal (+19%) more than offsetting declines in oil (-3%). China’s CO2 emissions increase by 37% and by 2035 will account for 30% of world total with per capita emissions surpassing the OECD by 2035.
The distribution of energy resources relative to demand poses some challenges, notably for north-south coal transport and east-west power transmission.
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