Hello,

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

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

Not an Insider? 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”).

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
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 and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/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.