Asia Pacific / Science & Health

China's nuclear power capacity likely to overtake America's within a decade

by Stephen Stapczynski

Bloomberg

China’s rapid nuclear expansion will result in it overtaking the U.S. as the nation with the largest atomic power capacity by 2026, according to BMI Research.

The world’s second-biggest economy will almost triple its nuclear capacity to nearly 100 gigawatts by 2026, making it the biggest market globally, analysts said in a note dated Jan. 27. The nation added about 8 gigawatts of nuclear power last year, boosting its installed capacity to about 34 million kilowatts, according to BMI.

China has committed to boosting nuclear power, which accounted for about 1.7 percent of its total generation in 2015, to help reduce reliance on coal, which accounts for two-thirds of its primary energy. The nation has 20 reactors currently under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Another 176 are either planned or proposed, far more than any other nation, according to the World Nuclear Association.

“We expect growth to continue and China to emerge as one of the largest nuclear markets globally in terms of total installed capacity over the coming decade, as the huge pipeline of reactors that are planned, proposed or under construction gradually comes online,” Georgina Hayden, head of energy and renewable research at BMI, said by e-mail. “Furthermore, by expanding its own domestic nuclear sector, the country will develop the expertise to export nuclear capabilities and nuclear technology abroad.”

China General Nuclear Power Corp., along with fellow state-run giant China National Nuclear Corp., is seeking to sell and build nuclear power plants across the globe as part of the country’s efforts to export technology and surplus production capacity as it copes with a slowing domestic economy.

Coal’s share in the nation’s energy mix will gradually fall to just under 54 percent by 2026 from its current 70 percent, according to BMI.

“Nuclear additions are unlikely to slow in terms of absolute amount given the urgent priority to shift the generation mix away from thermal coal, today still over two thirds of output,” Joseph Jacobelli, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said by e-mail. “Unlike solar and wind, where the construction cycle is typically short, nuclear’s longer planning and construction timing allows for the nation’s grid to better prepare the network and ensure dispatch and stability.”

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