China’s Dominance in Nuclear Power: Weekly Data

China was a country late to the nuclear power party. While the US and Europe began rapidly building nuclear capacity in the 1960s, the communist superpower did not connect its first nuclear power station to the grid until the early 1990s. Today, China leads the world for solar, wind, hydro and coal power generation, but it only has the third-largest nuclear power capacity, after the US and France

This is about to change in dramatic fashion. It was reported in November 2021 that China planned to build 150 new reactors at a cost of $440bn (2.8trn yuan), which is more reactors than the rest of the world has built over the past 35 years. 

A construction worker works on a new nuclear facility at the LingAo power plant in Guangdong province, China. The plant was first commissioned in 2002 and is being expanded as China embraces nuclear energy. (Photo by Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images)

Analysis of power plant data from GlobalData, Energy Monitor‘s parent company, shows the enormous scale of China’s nuclear ambitions, which encompass both the new 150-reactor plan as well as existing plans. The country has 19 reactors under construction, 43 reactors awaiting permits, and a massive 166 reactors that have been announced. The combined capacity of these 228 reactors is 246GW, more than the entire electricity generation capacity of Germany (225GW). It is a figure close to the 289GW of new nuclear capacity the rest of the world has in the pipeline.

China’s enthusiasm for nuclear comes despite decades of opposition from environmentalists, cost overruns and several high-profile disasters (a safety review following the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown meant no plants were approved between 2016 and 2018). 

China's interest in nuclear stems from its climate goals. It has pledged to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. These are big asks when more than 60% of its power continues to come from coal, the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels. Not only will China have to decarbonise this existing generation capacity, but it will also have to ensure that growing energy demand (up more than 1,000% since 1990) is not met by fossil fuels. Nuclear power offers low-carbon baseload power, even if that power comes at a high cost because it results in a high volume of nuclear waste. 

A quarter of a million tonnes of highly radioactive waste sits in temporary storage near nuclear power plants and weapons production facilities around the world, awaiting a viable long-term solution. 

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Chinese state media reported in November 2021 that the country had made a “breakthrough” in nuclear waste disposal technology, whereby liquid waste is heated with sand at more than 1,000°C to form glass that stably stores the radioactive material. However, India, France and the UK have carried out such vitrification for decades. Given that glass and steel containers will corrode over thousands of years of storage, and there are doubts over where is best to secure those containers, long-term nuclear waste storage remains a conundrum for policymakers.