Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nuclear Issues: Despite Nuclear Boom China Lags Far Behind USA

A water-cooling tower emits a cloud of steam from a coal-fired power station in Beijing. | Credit: Bangkok Post

By Taro Ichikawa Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

TOKYO (IDN) - China, the world's most populated and second largest economy, has made big strides in the past four decades. But it is lagging far behind the world's largest economy, the USA, and will continue to do so in the next ten years despite ambitious plans to build atomic reactors, according to analysts.

Presently, China has 13 nuclear power plant units in operation with 10,048 Megawatt (MW) net electricity output compared to 104 in the U.S. with 100,683 MW net electricity production. World wide there were 441 atomic power plants in operation in October 2010.

China plans to raise the nuclear share in electricity production in the quest for clean energy to satisfy its energy hunger -- triggered by continuing economic growth of about 10 percent each year. Twenty-five plants are under construction and 54 planned in the next years.

"The successful reuse of irradiated nuclear fuel, developed at a CNNC plant in the country's remote northwest, is likely to be key in China's efforts to diversify its energy mix, especially away from highly-polluting coal," the Bangkok Post reported on January 4, 2010, quoting experts.

CNNC is the established China National Nuclear Corporation pushing for indigenous technology.

The World Nuclear News (WNN) reports that China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has indicated the intention to raise China's nuclear power share from the current less than 2 percent to 6 percent by 2020 -- compared to 20 percent in the U.S. – thus requiring an increase from 9.1 Gigawatt of installed capacity to 70 GW to 80 GW, more than France at 63 GW. (GW comprises 1,000 MW).

Chinese official sources say that nuclear and solar are being looked to as alternatives to coal power in due to increasing concerns about air quality and global warming.

Presently, most of the electricity in China (not including Taiwan) is produced from fossil fuels (80 percent from coal, 2 percent from oil, 1 percent from gas in 2006) and hydropower (15 percent). Two large hydro projects are recent additions: Three Gorges of 18.2 GW electrical (GWe) and Yellow River of 15.8 GWe, says a dossier on 'nuclear power in China' by the World Nuclear Association (WNA).

It points out that rapid growth in demand has given rise to power shortages in China, and the reliance on fossil fuels has led to much air pollution.

"The economic loss due to pollution is put by the World Bank at almost 6 percent of GDP. In 2009 power shortages were most acute in central provinces, particularly Hubei, and in December the Central China Grid Co. posted a peak load of 94.6 GW."

According to the WNA, additional reactors China has planned, "include some of the world's most advanced, to give more than a tenfold increase in nuclear capacity to 80 GWe by 2020, 200 GWe by 2030, and 400 GWe by 2050".

Besides, China is rapidly becoming self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle.

The World Nuclear News reported on January 5, 2011 that the CNNC had received governmental approval to begin preliminary work on four new nuclear power reactors: two at the existing Tianwan site in Jiangsu province along the East Coast of the country and two at the new Xudabao plant in Liaoning province in the southern part of China's Northeast.

The significance of the decision to build nuclear power reactors in Jiangsu province is underlined by the fact that it is one of the wealthiest among the provinces of China, boasting the second highest total GDP (Gross Domestic Product), after Guangdong Province on the southern coast.

According to the 'China Perspective', the government has worked hard to promote the solar industry and hopes that by 2012 it will be worth 100 Billion RMB (about 15 billion USD). The economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping have greatly benefited southern cities, especially Suzhou and Wuxi, which outstrip the provincial capital Nanjing in total output.

GDP per capita in Jiangsu province was 44,232 yuan (6,682 USD) in 2009. But there is a great geographical disparity, and southern cities like Suzhou and Wuxi have GDP per capita around twice the provincial average, making south Jiangsu one of the most prosperous regions in China, analysts say.

Jiangsu's nominal GDP in 2009 was 3.41 trillion yuan (USD 499 billion), making it the second largest GDP of all the provinces and an annual growth rate of 12.4 percent. Its per capita GDP was 44,232 yuan (USD 6,475). In 2009, the share of GDP of Jiangsu's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were 6.4 percent, 54.1 percent, and 39.5 percent respectively.

The Liaoning province is well known for its extraordinary historical fossils. In fact the first widely acknowledged feathered dinosaur, 'Sinosauropteryx prima', was discovered in Liaoning and unveiled at a scientific conference in 1996.

Other notable discoveries have been an intact embryo of a pterosaur, 'Repenomamus robustus' -- a cat-sized mammal who ate dinosaurs, and 'Sinornithosaurus millenii', nicknamed "Dave the Fuzzy Raptor".

Between 2006 and 2010 the province expected to create ten cities with a population of 200,000-500,000, and ten with a population of 100,000-200,000, taking its urbanization rate to 63 percent in the upcoming years.

Liaoning ranks seventh in China in terms of GDP since 2009. Major cities include Shenyang, the provincial capital and one of the largest cities in China, Anshan, the third largest city in the province, Benxi, Dalian, a flourishing port city once controlled by Japan and Russia, Dandong, border city with North Korea, Fushun and Jinzhou.

The approval to begin preliminary work on four new nuclear power reactors was given by NDRC and would lead to the construction of Tianwan 3 and 4 (Phase II of the plant) and the first two units at Phase I of Xudabao, the WNN said.

"At Tianwan, CNNC will construct two 1060 MWe Russian-supplied VVER-1000 pressurised water reactors, alongside the existing two such units at the site. A contract for the engineering design of Tianwan 3 and 4 was signed in September 2010 between CNNC subsidiary Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation and AtomStroyExport, and the general construction contract was signed in November 2010," the WNN said.