Nuclear Energy – Made in China
China’s Nuclear Program Experiencing Rapid Growth
Already, China has 15 nuclear units in operation, 77 under construction or planned and 150 proposed. An expected $120 billion could be invested in nuclear generation by 2020.1
By comparison, the U.S. nuclear industry consists of 104 operating nuclear units, with four more under construction (Vogtle Units 3 and 4; V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3). Several utilities, including Duke Energy, have nuclear units in the developmental stage and under Nuclear Regulatory Commission license review. Nuclear energy accounts for approximately 20 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S.
Since the 1970s, China has actively pursued a market-oriented economy. Today, it is the largest exporter in the world, has the largest workforce (795 million), the second largest economy, the largest electricity output and the largest population (1.3 billion).2
With significant coal inventories available, China generates approximately 80 percent of its electricity from coal. Hydroelectric power provides approximately 15 percent, oil approximately two percent, nuclear energy approximately two percent and natural gas approximately one percent.1
China’s commitment to nuclear generation will help achieve a goal of cleaner, low-carbon generation. Companies such as Westinghouse Electric Corporation and AREVA have been working with Chinese nuclear companies to provide the technology, design, project management and other support.
While China has chosen the latest passive nuclear technology for the majority of its needs, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors and fast-neutron reactors remain part of the country’s nuclear energy strategy. Achieving self-sufficiency in reactor design, construction and the nuclear fuel cycle remains a national priority for China.
In 2007, Duke Energy agreed to participate in a “job shadow” program sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Corporation for the Sanmen and Haiyang nuclear stations under construction in China. Part of this effort focused on establishing a “nuclear safety culture” similar to a U.S. nuclear industry effort.
These two stations use Westinghouse’s passive AP1000® design, as do the V.C. Summer and Vogtle units. Duke Energy’s proposed Lee Nuclear Station, Levy Energy Complex and Harris Nuclear Plant incorporate the AP1000 design, as well.
“The Chinese nuclear companies wanted to send personnel here to observe U.S. nuclear plants. We volunteered to host visits for these two companies,” said Dick Sweigart, Nuclear Plant Development – operational planning manager for Duke Energy.
“As part of this program, we will have the opportunity to visit two Chinese plants to observe their pre-operational startup and testing program,” added Sweigart. “As we continue through the licensing process to keep new nuclear available for our customers in the future, we see this as an opportunity to apply what we learn from the Chinese plants to our own projects.”
Sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Duke Energy provided training and orientation classes for Chinese nuclear company personnel on radiation protection and other important aspects of nuclear generation. Duke will conduct a two-week human performance training class in China for one of its nuclear companies building AP1000 units.
“We want to be good international citizens. If we can help our Chinese counterparts in any way, that is good for everyone,” said Sweigart.