Wednesday, December 12, 2018

China’s Losing Its Taste for Nuclear Power.  That’s Bad News.

Once nuclear’s strongest booster, China is growing wary about its cost and safety.

Nuclear power plant (Credit: Imaginechina | AP Images) Click to Enlarge.
For years, as other countries have shied away from nuclear power, China has been its strongest advocate.  Of the four reactors that started up worldwide in 2017, three were in China and the fourth was built by Beijing-based China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) in Pakistan.  China’s domestic nuclear generation capacity grew by 24% in the first 10 months of 2018.

The country has the capacity to build 10 to 12 nuclear reactors a year.  But though reactors begun several years ago are still coming online, the industry has not broken ground on a new plant in China since late 2016, according to a recent World Nuclear Industry Status Report.

Officially China still sees nuclear power as a must-have.  But unofficially, the technology is on a death watch.  Experts, including some with links to the government, see China’s nuclear sector succumbing to the same problems affecting the West:  the technology is too expensive, and the public doesn’t want it.

The 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant shocked Chinese officials and made a strong impression on many Chinese citizens.  A government survey in August 2017 found that only 40% of the public supported nuclear power development.

The bigger problem is financial.  Reactors built with extra safety features and more robust cooling systems to avoid a Fukushima-like disaster are expensive, while the costs of wind and solar power continue to plummet:  they are now 20% cheaper than electricity from new nuclear plants in China, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Moreover, high construction costs make nuclear a risky investment.

Read more at China’s Losing Its Taste for Nuclear Power.  That’s Bad News.

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