Development Of Home Grown Technology Probably Means China Can Accelerate Its Nuclear-Power Programme With New Plants
The Hualong One is not only important in Beijing’s attempts to become less dependent on the West for energy security and critical technology, it is also very significant for President Xi Jinping’s environmental goal of making China carbon neutral by 2060
The Fukushima reactor accident in Japan nearly 10 years ago prompted many countries to pause their nuclear power programmes. Climate-change links to carbon emissions from the alternative of coal-fired generation were among concerns that forced them to reconsider, along with the cost of renewable energy alternatives such as wind and solar power.
One result of the rethink is development of China’s first domestically developed nuclear reactor, the Hualong One, which officials have just powered up in the eastern province of Fujian for a year of tests on the national grid before entering commercial service. After evaluation they decided it was safe to go ahead.
It is not only a landmark step in Beijing’s attempts to become less dependent on the West for energy security and critical technology, but is very significant for President Xi Jinping’s environmental goal of making China carbon neutral by 2060.
Nuclear plants supplied less than 5 per cent of China’s annual electricity needs in 2019, according to the National Energy Administration, but this share is expected to grow as Beijing aims for its emissions goal. Reducing dependence on the West in hi-tech sectors such as power generation is a key goal in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan. The cost of nuclear power is attractive subject to reassurance about environmental and safety issues.
China’s nuclear power industry has so far been heavily reliant on French core technology. Despite the Fukushima setback it remained imperative for China to develop clean energy in pursuit of the carbon-neutral target. In those terms nuclear power appeared the most cost-effective way. The successful development of Home Grown technology probably means China can accelerate its nuclear-power programme with new-generation plants.
China has 47 nuclear power stations with a total generation capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts – the world’s third highest after the United States and France. Thirteen are under construction, more than in any other country. Environmental and safety concerns through the whole process remain the biggest challenge for new technology. A reminder of that is still fresh in the memory from 2016, when a rare public protest forced officials to shelve plans for a nuclear waste facility in eastern Jiangsu province.
This news was originally published at SCMP