China Likely Pulling Ahead of US on Nuclear Power, Report Says

China Likely Pulling Ahead of US on Nuclear Power, Report Says

( – The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, released a report on June 17 detailing China’s nuclear power innovations thus far and its plans for the future. The report listed an analysis that China currently likely has a 10 to 15-year advantage over the US in developing and deploying fourth-generation nuclear reactors as one key takeaway.

China currently has 55 nuclear power reactors operating nationwide, compared with 95 in the US. However, China has 27 new reactors currently under construction and a history of completing reactors and bringing them online in seven years, on average. No new reactors are currently under construction in the US.

Additionally, China has set a goal to build 150 new reactors between 2020 and 2035. By 2060, the country hopes to have replaced all 2,990 coal-fired power-generating plants with nuclear-powered plants.

The ITIF pointed out that China has used “systemic and organizational innovation” at the national and provincial levels to support “low-interest financing, feed-in tariffs, and other subsidies,” making the leap to nuclear power possible. Additionally, China has “streamlined permitting and regulatory approval” and optimized supply chains to reduce the time required to build each reactor plant.

While China has made technological leaps, it stood on the shoulders of a Western company to do so. Westinghouse provided considerable collaboration to China in developing its third and fourth-generation reactors. However, ITIF reported that the Chinese used hackers to steal technology from Westinghouse and others that they weren’t willing to share.

The ITIF also noted that the US nuclear power infrastructure is aging. The think tank suggested a whole-of-government response to “reanimat[e] the deployment of modern nuclear reactor technology.” The report mentioned a recent Department of Energy (DOE) report that suggested the US could triple its nuclear power generation to 300 GW annually by 2050, promoting US security and energy resilience as byproducts.

On Monday, the DOE published a press release explaining a Notice of Intent that the department issued. The DOE will spend $900 million to support Generation III+ Small Modular Reactor technologies. However, the DOE is aiming higher than the ITIF report suggested. It hopes that promoting novel nuclear technology will produce an additional 700 to 900 GW annually.

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