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February 23, 2024 | China Could Be The World Leader in Nuclear Power by 2030

Hilliard MacBeth

Author of "When the Bubble Bursts: Surviving the Canadian Real Estate Crash"

China is growing its nuclear power generation capacity.

Already the world leader in solar and wind, China threatens to take the lead in one of the most talked-about clean energy formats, nuclear power.

Will China pass the U.S. and France in generating electricity from nuclear fission?

China has announced aggressive targets for nuclear power generation that would make it a contender for the top spot in the world. China is currently in third place.

The U.S. and France now hold the lead, with the U.S. generating the most power from its large fleet of 92 plants.

Using a Westinghouse Electric design, the U.S. built those plants in the 1950s and 60s, and then stopped building new plants in the 1970s. After a decades-long hiatus, two new reactors have been completed, both in the Vogtle site in Georgia beside two existing reactors. The new reactors use the Westinghouse design and electricity production began in 2023 and 2024 respectively.

The completion date initially for Vogtle 3 and 4 was 2016 at a cost of US$14 billion. The cost has ballooned to $30 billion and is about 8 years behind schedule. During the construction period Westinghouse Electric went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The second place holder, France, uses a similar technology called PWR for “pressurized water reactor”. The primary coolant is water, which is pumped to the reactor core where it is heated by energy from fission. The heated, high-pressure water then flows to a steam generator, which drives a turbine which produces electricity.

The largest utility company in Europe, Electricite de France, (EDF) operates 56 reactors in France. EDF was recently bought by the government of France for about US$10 billion after financial problems and delays at an EDF project, Hinkley Point in southwest England.

EDF is building two reactors there, but costs have soared, with long construction delays. The initial completion date was 2017 at a cost of GBP18 billion. Now completion is expected by 2031 and the cost will be GBP35 billion, or US$60 billion.

Cost overruns in both England and the U.S. were attributed to a lack of experienced workers, among other things.

In Bloomberg, Simon Taylor, a professor at University of Cambridge said, “The U.K. and the U.S. have … forgotten how to build nuclear stations.”

China is moving ahead quickly, with six reactors approved in 2022 at three coastal sites for a total of 27 under construction. China is already the world leader in construction of new nuclear plants.

The cost of the six reactors is estimated to be about US$18 billion, a small fraction of the costs at Hinkley and Vogtle. Although the reactors are based on a new third-generation design developed in China, the basic design was from the Westinghouse Electric AP1000.

It will take a few more years for China to surpass the U.S. in total production, but the trajectory is clear.

China will soon be the new leader in nuclear power, as it is already for solar and wind.

Hilliard MacBeth


The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson Wealth or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them, having regard to their own particular circumstances.. Richardson Wealth is a member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Richardson Wealth is a trademark by its respective owners used under license by Richardson Wealth.

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February 23rd, 2024

Posted In: Hilliard's Weekend Notebook

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