(Updated January 2023)
- 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.
Operable Reactors : 53,150 MWe
Reactors Under Construction: 21,867 MWe
Reactors Shutdown: 0 MWe
Total generation (in 2019): 7541 TWh
Generation mix: 4899 TWh (65%) coal; 1304 TWh (17%) hydro; 406 TWh (5%) wind; 348 TWh (5%) nuclear; 226 TWh (3%) natural gas; 225 TWh (3%) solar; 121 (2%) biofuels & waste.
Import/export balance: 4.4 TWh net export (17.2 TWh imports; 21.7 TWh exports)
Total consumption: 6568 TWh
Per capita consumption: c. 4700 kWh in 2019
Source: International Energy Agency and The World Bank. Data for year 2019
Most of mainland China’s electricity is produced from fossil fuels, predominantly coal – 69% in 2019. Wind and solar capacity in 2019 was 21% of total installed generating capacity, but delivering under 9% 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 prioritized 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 International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that since 2012, China has been the country with the largest installed power capacity, and it has increased this by 85% since then to reach 2011 GWe in 2019, about a quarter of global capacity.
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 the 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.
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