Growth Engines: Coal and Nuclear Powering China’s Economic Rise & Global Ambitions

No country ever got rich without abundant supplies of affordable energy. It’s all very well for the well-fed, smug and pompous to lecture others about the virtues of wind and solar. But when you’re dragging hundreds of millions out of agrarian poverty, virtue signalling runs a very poor second. And, so it is, with China.

The CCP isn’t mucking around with unreliable, intermittent and unstable electricity sources. Instead, the Party has largely rejected wind and solar, with an acute focus on building coal-fired and nuclear plants.

Much to the horror of the climate industrial complex, China is building new coal-fired power plants, at a staggering clip. Moreover, it’s also leading the world in the construction of new nuclear plants. In short, China is a Country that’s totally serious about serious power generation.

Here are a couple of pieces that make precisely that point.

China: “renewable energy … intermittent and unstable, we must rely on a stable power source”
Watts Up With That?
Eric Worrall
4 May 2021

According to Su Wei, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Development and Reform Commission, renewable energy is too unreliable to power China.

China has ‘no other choice’ but to rely on coal power for now, official says
Evelyn Cheng
29 April 2021

Key Points

    • President Xi Jinping announced in September the country’s carbon emissions would begin to decline by 2030, and reach carbon neutrality by 2060 — in four decades.
    • In the meantime, policymakers are making clear that economic growth remains a top priority — and that growth depends largely on coal power.
    • “Because renewable energy (sources such as) wind and solar power are intermittent and unstable, we must rely on a stable power source,” said Su Wei, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Development and Reform Commission. “We have no other choice. For a period of time, we may need to use coal power as a point of flexible adjustment.”

In the meantime, policymakers are making clear that economic growth remains a top priority — and that growth depends largely on coal power. Beijing has a GDP target of 6% this year, a level which analysts say would allow authorities to tackle long-term problems such as the country’s high debt levels.

“China’s energy structure is dominated by coal power. This is an objective reality,” said Su Wei, deputy secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission. CNBC translated his Mandarin-language comments, which he made late last week following Xi’s separate remarks at a U.S.-led global leaders climate summit.

“Because renewable energy (sources such as) wind and solar power are intermittent and unstable, we must rely on a stable power source,” Su said. “We have no other choice. For a period of time, we may need to use coal power as a point of flexible adjustment.”

He added that coal is readily available, while renewable energy needs to develop further in China. …

Renewables were never going to be a viable option for China. They gave it a go, but their experiments in renewables have been plagued by intermittency and issues such as wind turbines icing up in winter.

Regular readers might have noticed I’m not a fan of the Chinese system of government. But one of their few advantages over the West is the Chinese government is dominated by engineers and scientists, people who know how to perform a few simple calculations.
Watts Up With That?

China is the Fastest growing Nuclear Power in the world
Jo Nova Blog
Jo Nova
4 May 2021

The CCP say that China has to stay with coal, but The West ought pay attention more to the rapid growth of nuclear power. Last September I noted that China was poised to be the largest global nuclear power by 2030, overtaking the USA in the next nine years. In the last twenty years, China has increased its fleet of nuclear power reactors from three to 49, with 17 more plants under construction. That means it will soon surpass France which has 57 reactors. At the rate the USA is closing plants, China may hit the No 1 spot faster than expected.

China has also opened an experimental fusion reactor called the Artificial Sun, while the ITER international consortium keeps delaying the opening of the French fusion experimental reactor.

It is sobering to know that despite the rapid growth of nuclear, it is still only 5% of the total energy supply in China.*

Electricity generation in 2019 increased by 5% compared with the previous year, to 7.3 PWh, according to figures published by the China Electricity Council. That from fossil fuels was 5045 TWh (69%), from hydro 1302 TWh (18%), nuclear 349 TWh (5%), wind 406 TWh (6%) and solar 224 TWh (3%).

—World Nuclear Association

In 2012, China became the worlds largest power generator (from all forms of generation). Since then it’s nearly doubled.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that since 2012, China has been the country with the largest installed power capacity, and it has increased this by 85% since then to reach 2011 GWe in 2019, about a quarter of global capacity.

—World Nuclear Association

The balance of power is shifting fast: China has half the capacity of the USA in nuclear power, but it doubled capacity in the last five years while the USA closed 39 reactors:

China Will Lead The World In Nuclear Energy, Along With All Other Energy Sources, Sooner Than You Think
James Conca
23 April 2021

China now leads the world in total energy production and also produces almost twice the amount of electricity that the United States does, 4.4 trillion kWh versus 7.5 trillion kWh per year, respectively. As of this month, China has 49 nuclear reactors in operation with a capacity of 47.5 GW, third only to the United States and France. And 17 under construction with a capacity of 18.5 GW.

This is just about half of the nuclear capacity of the United States which has 94 nuclear reactors in operation with a capacity of 96.5 GW and 2 under construction with a capacity of 2.2 GW. But 39 reactors have been shutdown, many for no particularly good reason.

China is now largely self sufficient in building and operating nuclear plants.

China has most nuclear power plants in progress: industry report
Gong Zhe
15 April 2021

China completed research and development on third-generation nuclear power technology called CAP1400 (Guohe One) in September 2020, according to an announcement by State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC). CAP1400 has broken overseas technology monopolies in many areas and owns independent intellectual property and export rights, said Lu Hongzao, assistant general manager of SPIC.

It will be a powerful provider of electricity. “For example, it can provide 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to the grid. So basically it can provide nearly 13 billion kilowatts per hour annually.”

With a design life of 60 years, the CAP1400 nuclear reactor improves safety performance against natural disasters including earthquakes and floods by 100 times, compared with the second-generation version.

In December 2020, China turned on the Artificial Sun in Sichuan province. The group plan to collaborate with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project — which is the worlds largest research project in fusion reactors, sited in France. The total cost of ITER was around $22b, half paid for by the EU and the rest by a consortium of Japan, China, South Korea, the USA and Russia. It was started in 2007 but after many delays and cost overruns, the French fusion reactor is not expected to start operating until 2027, 11 years late. Ain’t that the way?

China turns on nuclear-powered ‘artificial sun’
China successfully powered up its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor for the first time, state media reported Friday, marking a great advance in the country’s nuclear power research capabilities.

The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, and scientists hope that the device can potentially unlock a powerful clean energy source. It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius, according to the People’s Daily—approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun.

The future is surely fusion — one day, though there are many obstacles to overcome.

Australia could use that 300 year supply of coal now, while it’s still worth digging up.

China has a nuclear Belt and Road project too, Argentina, Iran, Pakistan:
Future projects are also being developed in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South America

Why China is eager to promote Nuclear Energy
Japan Times
Narumi Shibata
6 Dec 2020

In addition to the construction of plants within the country, China has also increased its presence as a major exporter of nuclear power. In 2013, Beijing set a policy of boosting exports of nuclear reactors as its national strategy, and has been promoting it along with its Belt and Road economic diplomacy initiative.

Since 2013, President Xi Jinping’s administration has been working on creating gigantic nuclear power firms through merging state-owned nuclear enterprises as a part of a national strategy to strengthen global competitiveness of the nation’s nuclear energy industry.

China has also been promoting the development of homegrown nuclear reactors. As well as pressurized water nuclear reactors such as Hualong One, the country is developing a multipurpose small modular reactor, known as ACP100, and a so-called fourth-generation high-temperature gas-cooled reactor and a fourth-generation fast breeder reactor.

Backed by such nuclear technology, China has been actively winning overseas contracts for nuclear power plant construction.

The contracts include China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) signing an agreement in October 2015 to invest in a nuclear construction project at the Hinkley Point site in the United Kingdom, led by French energy group Electricite de France (EDF), followed by another deal between them to build a Hualong One reactor at the Bradwell nuclear site in the U.K.

China also signed a cooperation agreement with Argentina for the construction of a Hualong One reactor in that country and agreed with Iran to offer two nuclear reactors. Another Chinese-designed reactor is under construction in Pakistan.

China is also cooperating on ongoing projects in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America to construct Chinese-developed nuclear reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors.

The growing influence of China as a nuclear exporter is the biggest factor in the structural changes to the international trade of nuclear power plants.

The West, asleep at the Wheel

*Many recent reports suggest nuclear power in China is still only generating 2 or 3% of the total. But the World Nuclear Association seemed to have the most detailed analysis.
Jo Nova Blog

2 thoughts on “Growth Engines: Coal and Nuclear Powering China’s Economic Rise & Global Ambitions

  1. 150 million degree artificial sun on Earth instead of 33 trillion miles away? Sure that makes sense, add 150 million degrees of heat right here on the planet to stop the planet from ‘over-heating’ which physics keeps repeating ad infinitim is an impossibility to ‘over-heat’. Artificial sun sounds like another marketing pitch. What powers the magnetic field to ‘fuse hot plasma’ and what is that fused to what I wonder? I deduce it’s the nuclear power mentioned that powers the magnetic field. This sounds like the hydrogen scheme that, well, uses more energy and creates more heat, or the pump and dump scheme of using wind to push water uphill, convert it into hydrogen gas, store it in an abandoned well, pump it back out, knock 3 times on the ceiling when you want it, and twice on the pipes when you had enough.

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