China set to overtake U.S. as biggest nuclear energy nation, IEA says
China is set to more than triple its nuclear energy capacity over the next 20 years, overtaking the U.S. to become the world’s largest nuclear-power producer, according to the International Energy Agency.
Speaking at the International Petroleum Week conference in London on Wednesday, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol expressed concerns that the U.S. and Europe aren’t investing enough in nuclear power, while China is charging ahead.
“China is coming back strong. Today there are about 60 nuclear power plants under construction and more than one third of them are in China. China is growing and as a result of that we’ll soon see China overtaking the United States as the number 1 nuclear power in the world,” he said.
He noted that the U.S. has been the global leader in nuclear power since the 1960s, but said that two trends are threatening to knock the country out of the top spot: Very few additions to nuclear capacity and no lifetime extensions for the existing power plants. The same goes for Europe, he said, where major nuclear player France has seen output decline sharply in recent years.
“If it continues like that, the U.S. nuclear capacity will go from 20% [of overall power supply] to 7%,” Birol said.
“This has many implications in terms of energy. I can tell you that what is happening is the same story as we’ve seen in solar. [China] is learning by doing, bringing costs down and therefore [they] are now ready to export [their] technology and are much more cost effective than others. And [they] challenge the established exporters such as the U.S., Japan, Korea and European countries,” he said.
Fatih expects China to overtake the U.S. as the biggest nuclear nation by 2030, as shown in this chart below.