NRG Events Technology - SMM» Blog Archive » China Is Paving a New Nuclear Path. The way forward on nuclear power is pretty clear: It’s in China.NRG Events

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China Is Paving a New Nuclear Path. The way forward on nuclear power is pretty clear: It’s in China.

Author: Jeffrey Ball

Today, most nuclear energy is produced in the industrialized world. But that’s changing fast, and the change will have big geopolitical repercussions.

Germany and Japan, two longtime nuclear stalwarts, are pursuing nuclear phaseouts sparked by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the U.S., a “nuclear renaissance” predicted just a few years ago by nuclear fans is encountering serious birthing pains.

But China is pushing ahead with nukes. Current projections suggest it, more than any other single country, will become the global epicenter of nuclear power generation in coming decades.

In 2010, China generated less than 2% of its electricity from nuclear power, according to the International Energy Agency. In 2035, the IEA says, nuclear plants will crank out fully 10% of China’s power.

Put another way: In 2010, China produced a fraction of the amount of nuclear power that the U.S. did. In 2035, the IEA projects, China will produce more nuclear energy than the U.S. does.

Today, the energy world is abuzz with the implications of U.S. shale-gas and shale-oil development. China’s expected nuclear build-out could prove equally game-changing. It would far eclipse the nuclear phaseout in places like Germany and Japan. And it’s starting to raise quiet concern in the countries that today produce most of the world’s nuclear power. Their worry: Whether China will develop a culture of nuclear safety as fast as it develops a fleet of nuclear plants.

Like it or not, the world’s nuclear industry is beating a path to China. In nuclear power, as in energy in general, the U.S. and Europe are decreasingly important. More and more, China is what matters.

Jeffrey Ball (@jeff_ball), formerly The Wall Street Journal’s environment editor and a longtime energy reporter at the paper, is scholar-in-residence at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, a joint initiative of Stanford’s law and business schools. He writes about energy and heads a project exploring the relationship among countries in the globalizing clean-energy industry.