Is China losing interest in nuclear power? Slowing demand for electricity and competition from renewables have halted new reactor approvals. Globally, the outlook for new, large nuclear reactors is gloomy, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook. A lot of countries have backed away from nuclear power in recent years due to concerns over public safety, cost and the complex challenge of getting plants built. But not China, whose state-backed nuclear industry has been steadily rolling out new reactors since the mid-2000s. The country has dominated growth in the sector over the past decade, and accounts for 40% of new reactors currently under construction. This year, five reactors are expected to come online in China, with the IEA predicting that by 2030 the country will overtake the United States as the world’s biggest generator of nuclear power. China has 20 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity under construction but plans for additional capacity are being delayed. A 2020 target of 58 gigawatts of installed nuclear capacity now looks out of reach. The National Energy Administration did not approve any new nuclear plants between 2016 and 2017. In 2017, only three new reactors started operating. Analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the cost of power from China’s onshore wind and solar will drop below that of coal in 2019 and 2021, respectively, suggesting that the cost advantage of nuclear power over renewables will only last a few more years. Mycle Schneider, an independent energy and nuclear power consultant, told chinadialogue that he thinks future power generation will tend instead toward more flexible and distributed models, and nuclear power will struggle to fit in with this as it relies on scale to reduce costs.
China Dialogue 19th March 2018 read more »