Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sustainable Energy

China Will Soon Leapfrog Traditional Leaders in Nuclear Power

China generates only about 2 percent of its total electricity using nuclear power, but it is adding new reactors much faster than any other country.

Nuclear power will likely have to play a big contributing role toward helping countries reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

China is rapidly moving up the global nuclear power leaderboard. Since 2012, as the traditional leaders in nuclear energy production have remained stagnant or backed off of their reliance on nuclear in the wake of Fukushima, China has added 11 new reactors and over 11 gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity.

By the end of this year, China is expected to pass Russia and South Korea and boast the fourth-largest nuclear generating capacity in the world, behind the United States, France, and Japan. By 2020 it will likely replace Japan in third place.

This trend shows no signs of slowing, because China has huge ambitions for adding new reactors, including advanced reactor designs, in the coming decades (see “Nuclear Options”). The country plans to increase its capacity from 23 gigawatts currently to 58 gigawatts by 2020, at which point it is also aiming to have 30 additional gigawatts under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. Right now, of the 64 reactors being built around the world, 24 are in China—15 more than in second-place Russia.

The Chinese government is banking on nuclear playing a significant role in helping it achieve its goals of having 15 percent of overall energy consumption come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020, and 20 percent by 2030 (in 2012, 91 percent came from fossil fuels, according to the Energy Information Administration).

Nuclear will also be very important, in addition to wind, solar, and hydropower, if China is to deliver on its promise that its annual emissions will level off no later than 2030 (See: “China Could Deliver on Its Carbon Promise Earlier than Expected”).

Keep up with the latest in China at EmTech Digital.

The Countdown has begun.
March 25-26, 2019
San Francisco, CA

Register now
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.