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China relies on nuclear power for energy security

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  • Nuclear power is currently accounting for a small share of total power generation in China, 5.02% in 2021.​
  • However, in contrast to the efforts of phasing out nuclear power in other countries such as Japan and Germany, China aims to expand its nuclear energy capacity and increase the share of nuclear power in its total power generation. Some expert estimates assume, that the ratio of nuclear power in China’s total power mix will reach 10%-15% in the future.​
  • The State Council just approved the build up of six new nuclear power plants in April 2022. That increases the number of total nuclear power plants under construction in China right now to 24.​
  • One of the major policy motivations behind China’s on-going nuclear power expansion is the government’s determination to enhance energy security by creating domestic energy sources, especially in an increasingly complex geopolitical situation. Another perspective is using nuclear power as an economically viable solution for achieving its decarbonization goals.​
  • There had been a brief period of political hesitations after the Fukushima earthquake in 2011, causing a temporary slowdown of nuclear power expansion and an assessment of China’s own third-generation nuclear power technologies from 2015 to 2018. However, the government has now picked up the approval pace since 2019, with the successful operation of China’s first third-generation nuclear power plant based on proprietary IP.​
  • Interestingly, among the six most recent projects, China has approved two nuclear power plants based on imported technologies from Westing House, a US nuclear power tech company. This may signal that the tensions between China and the US in “decoupling” of nuclear power technology and equipment is somewhat loosening.​

Sinolytics is a European consulting and analysis company specializing in China. It advises European companies on their strategic orientation and concrete business activities in the People’s Republic.

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