Nuclear power in China
Make haste slowly
China’s rush to build nuclear power plants is dangerous
Dec 6th 2014
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21635487-chinas-rush-build-nuclear-power-plants-dangerous-make-haste-slowly COAL kills, especially in China. Up to half a million people die prematurely each year as a result of the country’s infamously foul air. Coal, from which China gets roughly four-fifths of its electricity, is the main contributor to that deadly pollution. And since the country’s power-generation may need to double by 2030 to keep pace with economic growth and more affluent lifestyles, the damage from coal will get worse before it gets better. Given that grim picture, it is understandable that the government wants to diversify its energy sources. Nuclear power is central to this ambition. Even as doubts about it grow in the rest of the world, China has made its expansion a priority. With over two dozen reactors under construction, it wants to more than triple nuclear capacity by 2020. On December 10th China General Nuclear Power (CGN), the country’s biggest builder and operator of nuclear plants, plans to float shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange (see article). Since the government has no need for outside investors to fund its nuclear ambitions, CGN’s partial flotation is a statement of the industry’s political profile. For most countries nuclear power is a poor option. Big reactors invariably cost more and take longer to build than predicted. As alternative sources of energy have proliferated, the economics of nuclear energy have worsened. The other worry is safety. Just as the memory of the Fukushima disaster in Japan was starting to fade, Europe’s biggest nuclear reactor, in Ukraine, was shut down this week. Such worries increase the risk of politicians cancelling projects, which also raises the costs. China, however, faces none of these constraints. The government is willing to pay for countless loss-making infrastructure projects,...
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