The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

China builds refugee camps – prepared for influx should Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse

China building network of refugee camps along border with North Korea Document suggests at least five camps are being set up as Beijing prepares for possible influx of refugees should Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse, Guardian, Tom Phillips , 12 Dec 17, China is quietly building a network of refugee camps along its 880-mile (1,416km) border with North Korea as it braces for the human exodus that a conflict or the potentially messy collapse of Kim Jong-un’s regime might unleash.

The existence of plans for the camps, first reported in English by the Financial Times last week, emerged in an apparently leaked internal document from a state-run telecoms giant that appears to have been tasked with providing them with internet services.

The China Mobile document, which has circulated on social media and overseas Chinese websites since last week, reveals plans for at least five refugee camps in Jilin province.

The document, which the Guardian could not independently verify, says: “Due to cross-border tensions … the [Communist] party committee and government of Changbai county has proposed setting up five refugee camps in the county.”

It gives the names and locations of three such facilities: Changbai riverside, Changbai Shibalidaogou and Changbai Jiguanlizi. The New York Times reportedthat centres for refugees were also planned in the cities of Tumen and Hunchun.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry declined to confirm the camps’ existence at a regular press briefing on Monday but did not deny they were being built. “I haven’t seen such reports,” Lu Kang told reporters.

The question was purged from the foreign ministry’s official transcript of the briefing, as regularly happens with topics raised by foreign journalists that are considered politically sensitive or inconvenient.

North Korea fortifies part of border where defector escaped

The leaked document contains the name and telephone number of a China Mobile employee who drafted it but calls to that number went unanswered on Tuesday. The construction of the camps appears to reflect growing concern in Beijing about the potential for political instability – or even regime collapse – in North Korea.

Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea specialist from Renmin University in Beijing, said while he could not confirm whether the document was genuine, it would be irresponsible for China not to make such preparations.

“Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula … it is on the brink of war. As a major power and a neighbouring country, China should make plans for all eventualities.”

Jiro Ishimaru, a Japanese documentary maker who runs a network of citizen journalists inside North Korea and on the Chinese side of the border, said a contact in Changbai county had recently told him that while they had not seen signs of camps being built there, they “had heard there are plans to build a facility”.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have soared this year as the US president, Donald Trump, has stepped up pressure on his North Korean counterpart and Pyongyang has accelerated its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Trump has baited Kim with the nickname “Little Rocket Man” and threats of military action, while Kim has responded with insults of his own, and a succession of nuclear and missile tests that have brought two new rounds of UN sanctions.

Following its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test on 29 November, Pyongyang claimed the ability to strike anywhere on US soil.

‘Quite backwards’: Chinese tourists gawk at impoverished North Koreans

In an interview with the Guardian in Beijing on Monday, Dennis Rodman, the NBA star turned would-be peacemaker, played down fearsof a catastrophic nuclear conflict and denied Kim, whom he calls his friend, was “going to try and bomb or kill anyone in America”.

“We ain’t gonna die, man, come on, no … It’s not like that,” Rodman insisted, urging Trump to use him as an intermediary to engage with Kim. He described the verbal war between Trump and Kim as “a chess game” that should not be taken too seriously.

Beijing seems less certain. Last week one official newspaper in Jilin, the Chinese province closest to North Korea’s nuclear test site, hinted at that nervousness with a full-page article offering tips on how to react to a nuclear incident.

Iodine tablets, masks and soap were useful allies in the event of such a catastrophe, readers of the Jilin Daily learned.

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen and Justin McCurry in Tokyo.


December 12, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

China’s ambassador says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that diplomacy will succeed with North Korea

China Optimistic Diplomacy Will Solve North Korea Nuclear Issue. Sarah Jones, November 19, 2017

  • Ambassador to U.K. Liu Xiaoming speaks in interview with ITV
  • China has “done everything” it can to resolve crisis

China’s Ambassador to the U.K. Liu Xiaoming says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that a diplomatic solution can be found to stop North Korea from developing further nuclear weaponry.

 Liu, who was China’s ambassador to North Korea for more than three years, said that his government “had done everything” it could to persuade the country to halt its nuclear program. He spoke in a television interview with ITV.
 “I am still cautiously optimistic,” Liu said in the interview that was broadcast on Sunday. “I still believe that if all parties engage with each other and we encourage North Korea to return to the negotiating table, we can still find a diplomatic solution to this problem.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently sent Song Tao, head of the Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, to North Korea a week after hosting U.S. President Donald Trump, stoking speculation that Song may carry a message from the Xi-Trump talks. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported there was a good chance that the Chinese envoy would meet leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday, citing unidentified diplomats in Beijing.

 Liu said Sunday that North Korea had “legitimate concerns” about trust and security and blamed South Korea’s close relationship with the U.S. as the “root cause” of the problem. While China “strictly abides” by United Nations sanctions against North Korea, resolutions must also be about negotiations, he told ITV.

November 19, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Dangerous nuclear-powered space exploration to get more dangerous, as China joins the race

China’s nuclear spaceships will be ‘mining asteroids and flying astronauts to the moon’ as it aims to overtake US in space race   State media publishes Chinese scientists’ ambitious plans to revolutionise space travel and exploration in coming decades, South China Morning Post, Stephen Chen: Friday, 17 November, 2017 China is on course to develop nuclear-powered space shuttles by 2040, and will have the ability to mine resources from asteroids and build solar power plants in space soon after, according to state media. The ambitious claims, made by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology – the country’s leading rocket developer and manufacturer – were published on the front page of People’s Daily on Friday.

According to the report, a new “nuclear fleet” of carrier rockets and reusable hybrid-power carriers will be ready for “regular, large scale” interplanetary flights, and carrying out commercial exploration and exploitation of natural resources by the mid-2040s.

China will catch up with the United States on conventional rocket technology by 2020, it said. In 2025, it is expected to launch a reusable suborbital carrier and start suborbital space tourism.

By 2030, it aims to put astronauts on the moon and have the capabilities to bring samples back from Mars. In the 2040s, a nuclear-powered fleet will be ready to carry out mining operations on asteroids and planets, the report said…..

“The nuclear vessels are built to colonise the solar system and beyond,” Wang Changhui, associate professor of aerospace propulsion at the School of Astronautics at Beihang University in Beijing, said…..

A nuclear spaceship would have a reactor loaded with radioactive fuel for fission – the splitting of atoms that produces large amounts of energy.

That energy could be used to generate a driving force as well as electricity for the craft’s on-board equipment….

 During the cold war, dozens of satellites equipped with various types of nuclear reactors were launched by the former Soviet Union and the United States..

But the nuclear space race was eventually postponed, partly due to its threat to humanity. In 1978, Russian spy satellite Kosmos 954 crashed and sprayed radioactive waste over an area of 124,000 square kilometres in Canada.

More than 30 dead nuclear satellites are still drifting in space and could fall to earth at any time over the next few thousand years.

“Safety issues will be the top challenge for the Chinese nuclear fleet,” Wang said. “If they come down, it will cause a global nuclear disaster.”

According to China’s space authorities, the nuclear shuttles would be docked at a transport hub that would orbit the earth. Reusable spacecraft would be used to transport people and cargo to and from the shuttles.

But even if they were permanently in space, the nuclear-powered vessels were still at risk of being hit by meteorites or even colliding with one another, Wang said.

Regardless of those concerns, a mainland space expert said the targets given in the People’s Daily report would be almost impossible to achieve…….

November 18, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

Senior Chinese diplomat visiting North Korea

China will send a high-level diplomatic envoy to North Korea, Business Insider, Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard, Reuters, Nov. 15, 2017  BEIJING — A senior Chinese diplomat will visit North Korea on Friday as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing said, though it did not say the envoy was planning to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international | Leave a comment

A Nuclear Space Shuttle by 2040 – the aim of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (

China Wants a Nuclear Space Shuttle by 2040  China’s primary space contractor reveals its roadmap for the next few decades. By Nov 17, 2017, Don’t sleep on the Chinese space program. China has already launched two space stations into orbit, and according to a recently released roadmap, the country is looking to build a reusable rocket, a massive cargo rocket, and a nuclear-powered space shuttle over the next few decades.

The roadmap was released by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China’s primary space contractor. CASC is the company that builds China’s successful Long March family of rockets, and its roadmap sets the company’s goals from the end of this year all the way out to 2045.

The first goal is to have the next-gen Long March 8 rocket ready by 2020. This rocket is currently in development and designed to be a low-cost, light payload rocket that can carry small satellites to orbit.

Then, in 2025, CASC plans to have developed a reusable space plane that can take off and land horizontally. This space plane would be a two-stage-to-orbit spacecraft primarily used for space tourism. The company hopes to improve on this design and complete a single-stage-to-orbit plane by 2030.

This plan is, in a word, ambitious. While a few single-stage-to-orbit aircraft have been considered in the past, none have made it to the prototype stage and all have been abandoned as impractical. But CASC’s plan is not done there.

By 2035 the company wants to make its entire line of rockets reusable, and by 2040 it hopes to have an entirely new line of launch vehicles. These will include a nuclear-powered space plane and other vehicles capable of “multiple interstellar round-trips, exploiting space resources through asteroid mining and constructing megaprojects such as a space-based solar power station,” whatever that means.

Of course, just because CASC puts these ambitious goals in a roadmap doesn’t mean any of them will actually happen, but it does show that the Chinese space community is confident about what they think they’ll achieve over the next few decades. We’ll just have to wait and see if that confidence will pay off.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

Bill Gates and China get together on new nuclear technology

China calls for stronger co-op with US in next-generation nuclear technology
The announcement came from Chinese premier Li Keqiang ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to China. Trump is scheduled to hold talks with President Xi Jinping. 
 Hindustan Times Nov 05, 2017 Press Trust of India, Beijing 

China wants joint cooperation with the US in developing next-generation nuclear power technology,  Chinese premier Li Keqiang said, ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing this week.Trump will be in China from Wednesday to Friday. He would hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In his meeting on Friday with Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and chairman of TerraPower, Li has called for closer China-US cooperation in developing the next-generation nuclear power technology.

Speaking highly of the China-US partnership in this field, Li said companies of the two countries have set up a joint venture with each holding half of shares and agreeing to share the intellectual property rights, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

TerraPower, LLC signed a joint venture agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation to form the Global Innovation Nuclear Energy Technology Limited. The two companies plan to work together to complete the Travelling Wave Reactor (TWR) design and commercialise the TWR technology…….

November 6, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, China, USA | Leave a comment

China to take the lead at international climate talks, as Trump’s USA has opted out

China to take centre stage at Bonn climate talks amid vacuum left by Trump   OCTOBER 31, 2017 by Emily Feng China is positioning itself to take a lead role at next week’s climate talks as it moves to fill the leadership vacuum left by the US, said the country’s top climate negotiator Tuesday. “To deal with differences in the negotiation process, China will propose its ‘bridge building plan’ at the upcoming summit,” said Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate policy representative, told reporters at a state press conference. Despite previous contributions from the US in combating climate change, “after the establishment of the new government, the announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement definitely impacted the international community’s confidence to deal with climate change,” said Mr Xie.

“All other countries have approached the [Paris] process with great confidence and determination. We see this trend as irreversible.” His comments are the latest in China’s move to cast itself as the new leader in the push to slow down the pace of global warming as numerous countries prepare to attend the World Climate Conference in the western German city of Bonn. Once known as one of the most polluted countries in the world, China has stepped up its commitments to combating climate change this year after US president Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris climate accords in June. President Xi Jinping referred to China as a “torchbearer” in environmental protection during a landmark three-hour speech a crucial Communist Party congress in October. “Now the tone from the top has been set straight,” said Greenpeace senior advisor Li Shuo. “China is transforming its domestic energy system and embarking on an ambitious diplomatic mission to drive the global climate agenda.”
China is expected to unveil a national carbon trading scheme next year modeled after the European Union’s carbon marketplace. However, Lin Gao, a climate policymaker at China’s top state planning body, admitted on Tuesday that there were still “problems” that needed to be fixed before the “very complex” scheme could be implemented nationwide. The climate talks in Bonn are set to overlap with President Trump’s visit to Beijing, which begins November 8. Asked whether President Trump and Xi would discuss climate change at Trump’s trip to China next week, Mr Xie told the Financial Times: “That is up to them to decide.”

November 6, 2017 Posted by | China, climate change | Leave a comment

Negativity around the China-UK nuclear power deal, as China gambles on a nuclear export industry

China’s nuclear power play falters in Britain Beijing’s planned investment in UK’s civil nuclear program, part of its One Belt One Road initiative, is on increasingly shaky ground,  NOVEMBER 4, 2017 When it recently emerged that China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CNG) had refused to give a visiting team of UK government inspectors the security details for one its reactors, a slew of negative headlines followed in UK media about Chinese involvement in Britain’s power supply.

The inspectors, from the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation, had traveled to China to examine Fangchenggang’s Unit 3 nuclear power plant and its Hualong One third-generation pressurized reactor.

The Hualong One design is earmarked for a planned Chinese-built nuclear power plant at Bradwell on England’s east coast and the inspectors were in China to start a complex four-year Generic Design Assessment [GDA] process that will end, the Chinese hope, with the reactor’s approval for use in Britain.

China is the world’s fastest expanding nuclear power producer and has been clear about its desire to be a leading exporter, too. Exporting nuclear power is an objective of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative and nuclear is included as a core energy component in the country’s latest Five-Year Plan. At the center of this ambition is the Hualong One.

Developed though a state-led agglomeration of China’s main industry players and initially adapted in the 1990s from a French design, the Hualong One has since 2014 been packaged — along with a package of enticements comprising construction expertise, training support, competitive pricing and financing options — as China’s flagship power brand.

CNG says more than 20 countries have shown interest in the nuclear plant. While the first working Hualong One reactors will be in China, in what are revealingly described as “demonstration units,” two are currently under construction in Pakistan while an Argentinian one reported to be worth US$9 billion is due in 2020. After that should come Bradwell.

The UK has not commissioned a nuclear power station for almost 30 years, but now has plans for six sites. China currently has involvement in three, but that could become four after the bankruptcy of Toshiba’s nuclear arm.

The first two, Hinkley Point C and Sizewell, only saw Chinese involvement after the French state-owned Électricité de France (EDF) voiced concern about growing costs. China agreed to help with finance as long as it got to build a Hualong One at Bradwell, which will be the first wholly Chinese-designed reactor to be built in a western country.

Is this a good investment for China?” asks nuclear risk expert Jerzy Grynblat. “It is very hard to say because, as it comes from the Chinese government, some of the sums will remain hidden. But what is perhaps more important to ask is why the Chinese state wants to invest when no western government will?”

For Grynblat – who, before retiring in early 2017, was Nuclear Business Director at safety assurance consultancy Lloyd’s Register – it is “purely an expansion of political power.”

Grynblat explains that the UK is currently the only western country with a nuclear power program. “They needed to add capacity and replace existing capacity… In terms of power security, the UK was in a bad position and they had to do something.” That gave China an opportunity, says Grynblat. “Bradwell presented the Hualong One with an important foothold in the West.”

The design of the Hualong One, Grynblat believes, is reminiscent of a Swedish reactor from the 1980s. “It surprised me a little,” he says. “It really is quite old fashioned. I am not saying this makes it unsafe, certainly not, but what it does is make use of well known technology. And this makes approvals more straightforward… And the GDA process that they are starting now in the UK is crucial to them. They will be able use this all over the world.”

Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow at think-tank Chatham House and co-author of The World Nuclear Industry Status Reports, agrees. “It’s a first” says Froggatt. “It creates an important benchmark for China and it’s an important sales pitch. The GDA process alone brings kudos.”

Yet Froggatt is not convinced that Bradwell itself will be built. “The industry is changing rapidly. Even since China first got involved in the UK in 2015, the price of offshore wind and solar has got much cheaper. There is also recognition in the UK government that the Hinkley  contract cannot be repeated at Sizewell because it has made the cost of the power so expensive… Hinkley is happening but very slowly. They originally said it would be built by 2018. Now they are saying 2025… As such, I am now thinking that Sizewell will not happen.”

“And Bradwell,” says Froggatt, “is a different story again…. It is a new reactor, it’s Chinese and there are the security issues.” He asks: “Will the Chinese ever be able to open up the design specifications?”

The UK’s inspectors were quick to brush off their access issues in China and instead praised CNG’s “high level of expertise and commitment.” But it is not the first time there has been negativity around the China-UK power deal.

Last year, amid rising public opposition, Prime Minister Teresa May felt compelled to suspend the Hinkley project while a “security review” was carried out. Nick Timothy, May’s joint chief of staff at the time, had bluntly warned that the Chinese might be able to “build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will.”

There is a lot at stake here, for both China and the UK. And, much like a nuclear reactor, it looks like this story will run and run.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | China, marketing, UK | Leave a comment

South Korea and China repairing good relations, despite disagreement over THAAD missile defense system

South Korea and China move to normalize relations after THAAD dispute, WP,   October 31 , After a year of frosty diplomacy and economic pressure, South Korea and China announced Tuesday that they would put aside their differences out of a joint desire to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the two countries will resume normal relations. “The two sides attach great importance to the Korea-China relationship,” a statement from the ministry said.

In its own coordinated statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said the two nations would work to put their relationship back on a normal track “as soon as possible.”

China and South Korea have historically deep ties and over the past few decades had enjoyed a close relationship. However, that relationship was deeply damaged last July when Seoul agreed to install the U.S.-owned Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense platform on its land.

Though both Seoul and Washington argued the THAAD system had only defensive capabilities, Beijing was concerned about U.S. encirclement as well as the system’s sophisticated radar capabilities…….

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged that the THAAD dispute had not been fully resolved. “The two sides agreed to engage in communication on THAAD-related issues about which the Chinese side is concerned through communication between their military authorities,” it said in a statement.

For its part, China confirmed Tuesday that its position on THAAD had not changed.

And on Sunday, South Korea’s military chief met with his American and Japanese counterparts, as part of a growing three-way dialogue……..

November 2, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

If Trump attacks North Korea, China would enter the war against USA

CHINA’S CHILLING MESSAGE TO DONALD TRUMP AND THE WORLD COMMUNITY, InQUISTR, Alan Ewart, 19 Oct 17, “…..The prospect of USA vs, North Korea war is terrifying. According to Global Firepower, the hermit nation has a standing army almost one million strong. North Korea also has a trained military reserve that is 5.5 million strong, and which could engage the U.S. in a Vietnam style guerrilla war for decades.

This leads some to think that a preemptive nuclear strike against North Korea would be the only effective way of waging war against a nation that is building a nuclear arsenal. Therein lies the danger, one which could easily tip the world into a nuclear World War 3. A nuclear attack on North Korean capital Pyongyang would kill millions and would be very likely to draw China into World War 3.

As you can see from the World Time and Date calculator, Pyongyang is just over 100 miles from Dandong, a Chinese city of almost one million people. Dandong would, therefore, be well within the fallout zone that would be caused by a nuclear strike on Pyongyang. Something that Chinese premier Xi Jinping will not tolerate.

As reported by the Daily Star, Xi Jinping has issued a chilling warning to the international community. In a speech at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party President Xi warned that the Chinese army will be able to “prevail in both conventional and new theatres of operation.” China has the worlds biggest standing army with over 2.5 million regular troops. President Xi is currently pouring billions into new military hardware and boosting troop numbers.

China is North Korea’s main trading partner and only real ally, and there are real fears that Beijing would join any war on the side of Pyongyang. Chinese leaders have repeatedly told Donald Trump to “cool it” over North Korea as they try to find a peaceful resolution to the Korean conflict.

Trump is due to meet President Xi next month when he visits Asia. Let’s hope that the leaders can find a way to resolve the issue without the world being plunged into World War 3.

October 21, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international, weapons and war | 2 Comments

China looks to a second record breaking year in solar power installations

Renew Economy 18th Oct 2017, China is on track to install a record-smashing 50GW of solar PV in 2017,
with latest data showing that the nation has so far installed around 42GW,
taking its total installed PV capacity to around 120GW. According to the
latest report from Asia Europe Clean Energy Consultants (AECEA), China
needs to add just under 3GW of new solar in each remaining month of 2017 to
reach 50GW, and deliver a second consecutive record breaking year.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | China, renewable | Leave a comment

China forced to close top skiing area, due to earthquake concerns about North Korea’s nuclear tests

North Korean Nuclear Tests Close Chinese Ski Area, Outside, 17 Oct 17, 

Border resort shuttered amid earthquake and volcano concerns after a series of underground detonations China announced an indefinite closure of the country’s only cat-access ski resort due to earthquakes that were caused by a series of underground nuclear tests conducted by North Korea.

Changbaishan Ski Resort is part of China’s Changbaishan National Nature Reserve, a nearly 800-square-mile preserve along North Korea’s northern border that sits within 70 miles of the nation’s nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. The underground nuclear detonations in late September registered a seismic magnitude of 6.3, and eight seconds later produced a burst of seismic energy measuring 4.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The events triggered a landslide on a mountain within Changbaishan, prompting China to close a large section of the reserve—the only section with ski access.

“For the safety and convenience of travelers, we have temporarily closed the zone of Changbai Mountain. Officials are thoroughly investigating the safety of the tourist area,” reads a message from Chinese authorities, adding that the area will remain closed until “the potential risks disappear.”………

But the mountain range along the border of North Korea and China is sacred to more than just powder hounds. According to North Korean legend, its highest peak, Paektu Mountain, is the birthplace of the country’s former dictator Kim Jong-il. According to geological history, the range is also the skeleton of a violent volcanic eruption, an event that turned an ancient peak into the ring of mountains that appear today.

Aside from earthquakes and the subsequent landslides and avalanches, researchers worry that continued nuclear tests could recreate that explosive scenario, reactivating magma chambers and kicking off what would be a catastrophic modern-day volcanic eruption. A Newsweekarticle said that for a nuclear detonation to cause serious damage to a volcano, a preceding underground blast would need to measure at least 100 kilotons. The explosion in September was estimated to be around two and a half times that size.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, safety | Leave a comment

2017 – a catastrophic year for the nuclear industry – downturn in China, USA, and globally

More disastrous news for the nuclear power industry. In 2017 alone:
– clear signs of a major nuclear slow-down in China – the last remaining hope for the industry.
– the US nuclear power industry is in the middle of a full-blown crisis
– a seriously anti-nuclear government has been elected in South Korea
– Taiwan has reaffirmed a nuclear phase-out by 2025
– the South African nuclear power program was ruled illegal by the High Court and probably won’t be revived
– Switzerland voted in a referendum to phase out nuclear power (while all of Germany’s reactors will be closed by the end of 2022 and all of Belgium’s will be closed by the end of 2025).
– huge problems in the UK and France
– India’s nuclear power program is going nowhere and the government has implicitly acknowledged that plans for French EPR reactors and US AP1000 reactors will likely be shelved
– Japan’s nuclear power program remains in a miserable state
– Russia’s Rosatom has acknowledged that the pipeline for new reactors is fast drying up
Meanwhile, the growth of renewables has been spectacular and will grow even faster over the coming years. Renewables will be producing 3 times as much electricity as nuclear power by 2022.

Nuclear power’s deepening crisis, Jim Green, 16 Oct 2017,

This year has been catastrophic for nuclear power and just when it seemed the situation couldn’t get any worse for the industry, it did. There are clear signs of a nuclear slow-down in China, the only country with a large nuclear new-build program.

China’s nuclear slow-down is addressed in the latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report and also in an August 2017 article by former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd. China’s nuclear program “has continued to slow sharply”, Kidd writes, with the most striking feature being the paucity of approvals for new reactors over the past 18 months. China Nuclear Engineering Corp., the country’s leading nuclear construction firm, noted earlier this year that the “Chinese nuclear industry has stepped into a declining cycle” because the “State Council approved very few new-build projects in the past years”.

Kidd continues: “Other signs of trouble are the uncertainties about the type of reactor to be utilised in the future, the position of the power market in China, the structure of the industry with its large state owned enterprises (SOEs), the degree of support from top state planners and public opposition to nuclear plans.”

Over-supply has worsened in some regions and there are questions about how many reactors are needed to satisfy power demand. Kidd writes: “[T]he slowing Chinese economy, the switch to less energy-intensive activities, and over-investment in power generation means that generation capacity outweighs grid capacity in some provinces and companies are fighting to export power from their plants.”

Kidd estimates that China’s nuclear capacity will be around 100 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, well below previous expectations. Forecasts of 200 GW by 2030, “not unusual only a few years ago, now seem very wide of the mark.” And even the 100 GW estimate is stretching credulity ‒nuclear capacity will be around 50 GW in 2020 and a doubling of that capacity by 2030 won’t happen if the current slow-down sets in.

Kidd states that nuclear power in China may become “a last resort, rather as it is throughout most of the world.” The growth of wind and solar “dwarfs” new nuclear, he writes, and the hydro power program “is still enormous.”

Chinese government agencies note that in the first half of 2017, renewables accounted for 70% of new capacity added (a sharp increase from the figure of 52% in calendar 2016), thermal sources (mainly coal) 28% and nuclear just 2%. Earlier this month, Beijing announced plans to stop or delay work on 95 GW of planned and under-construction coal-fired power plants, so the 70% renewables figure is set for a healthy boost.

Crisis in the US

The plan to build two AP1000 reactors in South Carolina ‒ abandoned in July after A$11.5 ‒ 13.3 billion was spent on the partially-built reactors ‒ is now the subject of multiple lawsuits and investigations including criminal probes. Westinghouse, the lead contractor, filed for bankruptcy protection in March. Westinghouse’s parent company Toshiba is selling its most profitable business (memory chips) to stave off bankruptcy.

The cost of the two reactors in South Carolina was estimated at A$12.4 billion in 2008 and the latest estimate ‒ provided after the decision to abandon the project ‒ was A$31.6 billion. Cost increases of that scale are the new norm for nuclear. Cost estimates for two French reactors under construction in France and Finland have tripled.

Pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman discussed the implications of the decision to abandon the VC Summer project in South Carolina in a September 11 post:

“It is the failure of one of the largest capital construction projects in the US Every time another newspaper headline appears about what went wrong at the VC Summer project, the dark implications of what it all means for the future of the nuclear energy industry get all the more foreboding. … Now instead of looking forward to a triumph for completion of two massive nuclear reactors generating 2300 MW of CO2 emission free electricity, the nation will get endless political fallout, and lawsuits, which will dominate the complex contractual debris, left behind like storm damage from a hurricane, for years to come.”

The only other nuclear new-build project in the US ‒ two partially-built AP1000 reactors in Georgia ‒ is hanging on by a thread. Georgia’s Public Service Commission is reviewing a proposal to proceed with the reactors despite the bankruptcy filing of the lead contractor (Westinghouse), lengthy delays (5.5 years behind schedule) and a doubling of the cost estimate (the original estimate was A$17.9 billion and the latest estimates range from A$32.5 ‒ 38.4 billion for the two reactors).

No other reactors are under construction in the US and there is no likelihood of any construction starts in the foreseeable future. The US reactor fleet is one of the oldest in the world ‒ 44 out of 99 reactors have been operating for 40 years or more ‒ so decline is certain. Six reactors have been shut down in the US over the past five years and many others are on the chopping block.

Indicative of their desperation, some nuclear advocates in the US (and to a lesser extent the UK) are openly acknowledging the contribution of nuclear power (and the civil nuclear fuel cycle) to the production of nuclear weapons and using that as an argument to sharply increase the massive subsidies the nuclear power industry already receives. That’s a sharp reversal from their usual furious denial of any connections between the ‘peaceful atom’ and the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Global downturn

Elsewhere, the nuclear industry is in deep malaise and has suffered any number of set-backs this year. Pro-nuclear lobby groups are warning about nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis“, a “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“, and noting that “the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies“.

The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever” according to former EDF director Gérard Magnin. The only reactor under construction in France is six years behind schedule, the estimated cost has escalated from A$5 billion to A$16 billion, and the regulator recently announced that the pressure vessel head of the reactor will need to be replaced by 2024 following a long-running quality-control scandal. The two French nuclear utilities face crippling debts (A$56.5 billion in the case of EDF) and astronomical costs (up to A$151 billion to upgrade ageing reactors, for example), and survive only because of repeated government bailouts.

In South Africa, a High Court judgement on April 26 ruled that much of the country’s nuclear new-build program is without legal foundation. There is little likelihood that the program will be revived given that it is shrouded in corruption scandals and President Jacob Zuma will leave office in 2019 (if he isn’t ousted earlier).

Public support for South Korea’s nuclear power program has been in free-fall in recent years, in part due to a corruption scandal. Incoming President Moon Jae-in said on June 19 that his government will halt plans to build new nuclear power plants and will not extend the lifespan of existing plants beyond 40 years.

In June, Taiwan’s Cabinet reiterated the government’s resolve to phase out nuclear power by 2025.

In the UK, nuclear industry lobbyist Tim Yeo says the compounding problems facing the industry “add up to something of a crisis for the UK’s nuclear new-build programme.” The estimated cost of the only two reactors under construction was recently increased to A$46.2 billion (A$23.1 billion each) and they are eight years behind schedule.

India’s nuclear industry keeps promising the world and delivering very little ‒ nuclear capacity is 6.2 GW and nuclear power accounted for 3.4% of the country’s electricity generation last year.

In Japan, Fukushima clean-up and compensation cost estimates have doubled and doubled again and now stand at A$245 billion. Only five reactors are operating in Japan, compared to 54 before the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.

In Russia, Rosatom’s deputy general director Vyacheslav Pershukov said in June that the world market for new nuclear power plants is shrinking, and the possibilities for building new large reactors abroad are almost exhausted. He said Rosatom expects to be able to find customers for new reactors until 2020-2025 but “it will be hard to continue.”

In Switzerland, voters supported a May 21 referendum on a package of energy policy measures including a ban on new nuclear power reactors. Thus Switzerland has opted for a gradual nuclear phase-out and all reactors will probably be closed by the early 2030s, if not earlier (while all of Germany’s reactors will be closed by the end of 2022 and all of Belgium’s will be closed by the end of 2025).

Globally, the industry’s biggest problem is the ageing of the current fleet of reactors. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates that just to maintain current capacity of 392 GW, about 320 new reactors (320 GW) would have to be built by 2050 to replace retired reactors. That’s 10 new reactors each year. A nuclear ‘renaissance’ has supposedly been underway over the past decade yet on average only five reactors have come online each year.

Comparison with renewables

The IAEA has released the 2017 edition of its International Status and Prospects for Nuclear Power report series. It states that the share of nuclear power in total global electricity generation has decreased for 10 years in a row, to under 11% in 2015, yet “this still corresponds to nearly a third of the world’s low carbon electricity production.” In other words, renewables (24.5%) generate more than twice as much electricity as nuclear power (10.5%) and the gap is growing rapidly.

Five years from now, renewables will likely be generating three times as much electricity as nuclear reactors. The International Energy Agency (IEA ‒ not to be confused with the IAEA) recently released a five-year global forecast for renewables, predicting capacity growth of 43% (920 GW) by 2022. The latest forecast is a “significant upwards revision” from last year’s forecast, the IEA states, largely driven by expected solar power growth in China and India.

The IEA forecasts that the share of renewables in global power generation will reach 30% in 2022, up from 24% in 2016. By 2022, nuclear’s share will be around 10% and renewables will be out-generating nuclear by a factor of three. Non-hydro renewable electricity generation has grown eight-fold over the past decade and will probably surpass nuclear by 2022, or shortly thereafter, then leave nuclear power in its wake as renewables expand and the ageing nuclear fleet atrophies.

October 16, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, China, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Chinese government boosting storage capacity for renewable energy

China to boost energy storage capacity to fuel renewable power use, Reuters, OCTOBER 12, 2017 

 Reuters Staff, BEIJING,  – China aims to boost its large-scale energy storage capacity over the next decade, the government’s central planner said, in a major push to solve the problem of stranded power in the west of the country as Beijing promotes the use of more renewable power……..

October 14, 2017 Posted by | China, energy storage | Leave a comment

North Korea Nuclear Test leaves Chinese city shaken

October 9, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment