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China Will Become the Dominant Nuclear Power

The New York Times did an excellent update on China’s incredibly ambitious nuclear program last week (click here for the full story). The Middle Kingdom currently has 11 operational plants generating 11 gigawatts accounting for 2.3% of the country’s power. It plans to add ten a year for the next decade, taking them up to 70 Gigawatts by 2020, and a staggering 400 gigawatts by 2050. That’s nearly the total power generated in China today. This will also make China the world’s largest consumer of yellow cake (U3H8) for fuel. Canadian, American, and Australian uranium miners please take note. The goal is to sate the country’s insatiable demand for more electricity, as well as making a major dent in new greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. The China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group in the Southern part of the country is using imported French designs with proven track records. But the China National Nuclear Corporation in the North is using riskier Russian designs, and its president was recently arrested on corruption charges (see below). One wonders if these plants will perform as badly as the country’s poorly constructed school buildings when an earthquake hits. As nuclear plants are sited next to major cities, an accident could make Chernobyl look like a cake walk.