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China’s Nuclear Capacity Continues to Surge

China has added more than 34 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power capacity over the past decade as new installations surge, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) said in an analysis on Monday.

As of April 2024, China had 55 operating nuclear reactors with a total net capacity of 53.2 GW, while another 23 reactors are currently under construction.

The United States still has the largest nuclear fleet in the world, with 94 reactors, but it took nearly 40 years to add the same nuclear power capacity as China added in 10 years, the EIA noted.  

Although China has added nuclear power capacity in each of the past 10 years, nuclear power accounted for only about 5% of China’s cumulative power generation in 2022. To compare, nuclear power makes up about 18% of the electricity generation mix in the United States, according to the EIA data.

Despite China’s policy of adding more nuclear capacity to reduce emissions and to meet its power demand, coal continues to be the largest electricity generation source and is the source of much of the country’s air pollution, the EIA says.

China is currently constructing a total of 26 nuclear power units with a combined capacity of 30.3 GW, the highest in the world, according to a report by the China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA) cited by local media last month.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants is a major impetus for China to expand its nuclear generation fleet, according to the World Nuclear Association.

As of September 2023, China had 55 nuclear power units in operation with a combined installed capacity of 57 GW, and 24 units under construction with a total installed capacity of 27.8 GW, Xinhua quoted CNEA official Wang Binghua as saying. By 2060, that capacity is expected to jump to 400 GW, the official said.

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China is also expected to approve six to eight nuclear power units each year “within the foreseeable future.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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