China on course to lead in nuclear by 2030, says IEA

March 4, 2021, 3:18PMNuclear News

China will have the world's largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, an International Energy Agency official noted during a session at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions, World Nuclear News reported on March 3.

The workshop was held jointly by the IEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IEA official, Brent Wanner, head of Power Sector Modelling & Analysis for the agency's World Energy Outlook publication, said that as nuclear fleets in the United States, Canada, and Japan reach their original design lifetimes, decisions will have to be made about what will happen after that. Absent license renewals, the contribution of nuclear power could decline substantially in those countries while China’s reactor building program will boost it into the first position.

"The World Energy Outlook shows," he said, "that, on the one hand, we have aging fleets in advanced economies and very little construction going on, meaning that we will have a decline in production in the overall active nuclear fleets, moving forward over the next two decades.” Wanner added, “Then growth will largely be occurring, particularly in China, which will have the largest nuclear fleet by 2030.

Ceded position: Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner Peter Lyons, in his article published in the February issue of Nuclear News, wrote along the same lines as Wanner's comments. “In years past, the United States was the unquestioned leader in nuclear energy," Lyons said. "Our exports provided the foundations for a large fraction of the nuclear plants around the world…when U.S. companies exported their designs and expertise, they also exported U.S. safety and nonproliferation standards. In addition, they created long-term—close to a century—relationship between the United States and other nations.”

Lyons' article then quoted from a U.S. Department of Energy report, Restoring America’s Competitive Nuclear Energy Advantage, which said, “America has lost its competitive global position as the world leader in nuclear energy. The U.S. has ceded its leadership position to countries with state-owned enterprises, including Russia and China…After decades of neglect, the entire U.S. commercial nuclear sector…is at high risk of insolvency…threatening our national interest and national security.”

Investing in the domestic nuclear industry is important not only to decarbonize the energy sector, but also to ensure national security in the United States.

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