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China may surpass US as top nuclear energy nation –IEA

China may surpass US as top nuclear energy nation –IEA

Mubasher: China is likely to overtake the US as the world’s largest producer of nuclear energy after the recent developments undertaken by the Asian nation, an official at the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.

Considering the number of nuclear power plants under construction in China, the country may also surpass Europe in terms of nuclear energy, IEA executive director Fatih Birol said during a London event on Wednesday.

The IEA’s top official also expressed concerns that the US and Europe were not investing enough in nuclear energy, thus lagging behind, whereas China was making significant headway in the field.

“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,” Birol said at the International Petroleum Week conference.

Since the 1960s, the US has been the world’s nuclear power leader; however, two trends may knock the country out of the top spot, the top official said, citing few nuclear capacity additions and absence of lifetime extensions for existing power plants.

The same goes for Europe, Birol said during the conference, indicating that France, which has been a major nuclear player, has seen output drop in recent years.

“If it continues like that, the US nuclear capacity will go from 20% [of overall power supply] to 7%,” the IEA’s executive director stated.

He added that he expects China to overtake the US as the biggest nuclear-energy-producing nation by 2030.

Such an upgrade for China would have many implications in the energy arena, the top official noted.

The IEA projects that China’s nuclear power capacity will represent around 4% of its total power supply by 2040, up from 2% in 2016.

China has been focusing on nuclear power generation as it looks to move from an economy that is focused on rapid, manufacturing-based growth to a more service-oriented economy with a higher reliance on clean energy.

“This narrative further gained support last year when premier Li Keqiang pledged to make the country’s smoggy skies “blue again”,” according to MarketWatch.

“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,” MarketWatch reported, citing Birol as saying.