Wednesday, December 16, 2009

China Building Nuclear Plants To Fight Global Warming

China plans to build three times as many nuclear power plants in the next ten years than the rest of the world combined. China’s civilian nuclear power industry operates 11 reactors and is planning to start construction on 10 new reactors each year. China is already the largest emitter of global warming causing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the expansion of nuclear power will slow the increase in emissions. Center staff travelled to China in 2007 and toured the Daya Bay nuclear power plant facility and the state-of-the-art Pebble Bed Modular Reactor located about 40 miles from Beijing.

The China National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) oversees nuclear power plant operations and China has a strong safety record. According to the division of nuclear installation safety at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, China welcomes foreign inspectors to its reactors.

China has two rival state-owned nuclear power giants: the China National Nuclear Corporation, mainly in northeastern China, and the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, mainly in southeastern China. Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Guangdong uses French designs and is run by China Guangdong Nuclear. China National Nuclear has close ties to Russia.

Today, China’s nuclear plants can produce about nine gigawatts of power when operating at full capacity, supplying about 2.7 percent of the country’s electricity. Three years ago, the government set a goal of increasing that capacity more than fourfold by 2020. The government will soon announce a further increase in its targets, to 70 gigawatts of capacity by 2020 and 400 gigawatts by 2050.

Electrical demand is growing so rapidly in China that even if the industry manages to meet the ambitious 2020 target, nuclear stations will still generate only 9.7 percent of the country’s power, by the government’s projections.

According to specialists at the International Energy Agency in Paris, bringing so much nuclear power online over the next decade would reduce the country’s energy-related emissions of global warming gases by about 5 percent, compared with the emissions that would be produced by burning coal to generate the power. But the economy is growing so fast that even if the country can meet its goals, total emissions will rise 72 to 88 percent by 2020. (NYT, 12/15/09)

No comments: