China is aggressively moving away from carbon based power, and is moving to leverage more nuclear power.
If it achieves the targets outlined in its Energy Development Strategy Plan, it will become the world’s nuclear energy leader. If Chinese President Xi Jinping and his administration decide to press on, China will be solidly on track to dominate the nuclear landscape.
In 2005, China began an aggressive increase in nuclear generating capacity, with a 15-year trajectory in mind. That has the country’s energy future set to reach a crossroads in 2020, when the Communist Party will craft its 14th Five Year Plan.
- China is the world’s largest consumer of energy, but in transitioning to a more sustainable pattern of economic growth, its government has committed to moving away from coal toward cleaner, lower carbon fuels.
- The country’s nuclear sector relies almost exclusively on light water reactors, long considered “a safe bet” and the international norm for nuclear power, according to Mark Hibbs, a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program. But since the 1980s, China has been engaging in research and development of fast-neutron reactors which are vastly more efficient.
- Until now, no country has succeeded in bringing this technology to an industrial scale because of the complexity, high costs and safety risks. In fact, most countries have suspended development of fast-neutron reactors for the last 15 years. So if China were to successfully convert its R&D into commercial deployment, it would significantly change the landscape of nuclear energy.