Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – China officially becomes the world’s new nuclear power king, beating the United States (US) or other European countries, such as Russia.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) notes that Beijing currently has 21 nuclear reactors under construction that will have a generating capacity of more than 21 gigawatts. This number means that two and a half times more nuclear reactors are being built than any other country.
“China is the de facto world leader in nuclear technology today,” Jacopo Buongiorno, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNBC InternationalThursday (31/8/2023).
Kenneth Luongo, president and founder of the Partnership for Global Security, a transnational nuclear security and energy policy non-profit organization, echoed the sentiment.
“China is a resolute leader and at the forefront of today’s global nuclear ambitions. China is leading, even advancing,” he said.
After China, India is the country with the second largest nuclear development currently, with eight reactors under construction capable of generating more than six gigawatts of electricity.
Turkey, in third place, has four nuclear reactors under construction with an estimated capacity of 4.5 gigawatts.
The US currently has one nuclear reactor under construction, a fourth at the Vogtle power plant in Georgia, which will be capable of generating more than 1 gigawatt.
Even so, America’s current nuclear reactor fleet is a testament to former US dominance.
According to the IAEA, the US has 93 operating nuclear reactors with a capacity of generating more than 95 gigawatts of electricity. This number is more than any other country so far.
Many of these reactors are expected to be operational for some time to come, as nuclear reactors can have licenses to operate for 60 years and in some cases up to 80 years, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA) in a recent report on nuclear supply chains.
The country with the next most operational nuclear reactors is France, with 56 nuclear reactors and a generating capacity of more than 61 gigawatts. China is in third place with 55 operational reactors and a capacity of more than 53 gigawatts.
“It is generally agreed that the US has lost its global dominance in nuclear energy. This trend started in the mid-1980s,” said Luongo.
China was just getting started when the US nuclear industry started to take over. “China started building its first reactor in 1985, just as US nuclear development was starting to suffer a sharp decline,” Luongo added.
The reason China became the new nuclear leader
Electricity follows demand, so new nuclear reactors tend to be built in fast-growing countries that need electricity to fuel their growth.
According to the World Nuclear Association’s latest supply chain report, although more than 70% of existing nuclear capacity is located in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), almost 75% of nuclear reactors currently under construction are located in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). non-OECD countries, and half are in China.
Along with China’s economic growth, China’s energy production is also increasing. According to the US Energy Information Administration, China’s total energy output reached 7,600 kW in 2020, a major increase from 1,280 kW in 2000.
“The most important thing is meeting the incredible growth in demand over the last twenty years,” John F. Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and public affairs at the nuclear advocacy group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, told CNBC. “So they’re not just building a lot of nukes, they’re building a lot of things.”
Currently, according to the International Energy Agency, nuclear energy accounts for only 5% of total electricity production in China, while coal still accounts for about two-thirds.
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