By July 20, 2015 Read More →

China nuclear power: Soon to rank 3rd behind USA, France

American nuclear plants expected to operate at near full capacity over summer season

China is going all in on nuclear power. Plants currently under construction or on the drawing board will vault China above Russia, Japan and South Korea, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The United States leads the world with just over 100  gigawatts (GW) of capacity, which the EIA forecasts will have completed their refueling and maintenance before the start of the summer peak electricity demand.


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

China plans to increase nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) and to have 30 GW of capacity under construction by 2020.

Nuclear power currently makes up slightly more than 2 per cent of China’s total power generation. However, the Chinese government has a stated goal to provide at least 15 per cent  of overall energy consumption by 2020 (increasing to 20 per cent  by 2030) from non-fossil fuel sources, including nuclear, hydroelectricity and other renewable sources.

China has rapidly expanded its nuclear capacity in the past several years, which likely will increase nuclear generation in the next few years. China’s net installed nuclear capacity is 23 GW, after the country added 10 reactors totaling more than 10 GW since the beginning of 2013.

By the end of 2015, China is expected to surpass South Korea and Russia in nuclear generating capacity, placing it behind only the United States, France, and Japan.

China is also constructing an additional 23 GW of nuclear capacity that is slated to become operational by 2020. Operation of these units will make China the leading nuclear generator in Asia. Several more facilities are in various stages of planning.

All of China’s nuclear plants are located along the east coast and southern parts of the country, near most of the country’s power demand.

Following Japan’s coastal Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, China has increasingly considered construction of inland reactors.

China plans to take an ownership role throughout the entire nuclear supply chain. China intends to build strategic and commercial uranium stockpiles through overseas purchases and continue to develop domestic production in Inner Mongolia (north Central China) and Xinjiang (northwest China).

China is developing nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, which are expected to come online by 2017, according to the World Nuclear Association.


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

China currently imports all of its reactor technology, but the country is in the process of designing its own large pressurized water reactors, the CAP1400, through a technology transfer with U.S.-based Westinghouse. Also, as part of its nuclear expansion program, China signed agreements with several countries (Romania, Argentina, Turkey, and South Africa) in 2014 to finance the construction of nuclear reactors and export its own nuclear technology.

As the US reaches the summer peak electricity demand season, nearly all American nuclear generators have returned from refueling outages. Total outages were less than 1.5 gigawatts (GW) on July 6, the lowest level since late January.

Nuclear power reactors are typically refueled every 18 to 24 months. Although the refueling process can be completed in as few as 10 days, outage periods are typically longer because of non-critical maintenance that is completed concurrently with refueling to minimize downtime over the course of the year.

Nuclear generators provide a large, baseload source of electricity and typically operate at maximum capacity around the clock. Nuclear plant operators generally plan refueling outages to occur during the fall and spring months when demand for electricity is usually at its lowest because of modest cooling or heating needs.

Outage levels have been below the previous five-year range (2010-14) for much of this year and consistently lower than last year.

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