12 June 2014

Nuclear energy in China: the known unknowns

I taught a fourth-year class at Simon Fraser University where I allowed students to pick a "natural resource" topic that they would study, present and write on. I learned a lot from my students (who enjoyed the experience [pdf]) and asked each to write a blog post on an interesting dimension of the area they studied.

Here's a lightly edited post from SC:

Currently, China accounts for half of the world’s proposed nuclear power plant constructions, fueled not only by Chinese every expanding economy, but by the pursuit for her own moment in the sun. This demand for nuclear power far outstrips China’s ability to supply qualified technicians. No doubt the recent meltdown in Fukushima sounded the alarm among the Chinese government.

The problem is the standards. Forty-one reactors in China are either under construction or already operational, but with less than 1% of the nuclear power experts in the world, China finds herself in the perfect “nuclear” storm. These same reactors fall short of the internationally recognized standards for flood and earthquake resistance, and availability of domestic supplies for fuel. Substandard plants greatly increase the nuclear accident rate in China. With a further thirty new reactors slated for 2020, China’s own Research Council has recently warned of a growing shortage of technical experts that could compromise safety. It has been estimated that 5,000 nuclear experts will be required before this date, currently there is only four universities with nuclear programs producing the 200-300 experts annually; leaving a 3,800 to 3,200 deficit by 2020. This is to presume that none of the other already existing plants are not absorbing the new grads. As the nuclear power plant technology in China is imported from several countries like France, Russia, Canada and the US, there is a wide variety of power plant design and modules. For the Chinese inspectors and technical schools this poses a serious problem, since many of the local experts may have been trained on a specific reactor, and a new design is a world away.

The only thing more alarming than this has been the government’s lack of public transparency; when the Fukushima disaster struck the world’s attention only a few years ago, nuclear opponents in China sighed a breath of fresh air, but with the recent push for energy growth this proved short lived.

If China is not able to secure adequate regulation and oversight of their nuclear facilities a new disaster is ripe for the making. Enhancing transparency of nuclear power and establish a proper regulatory body can compel Chinese nuclear authorities to foster an environment of safety for the development of nuclear power.

Bottom Line: China's massive expansion in nuclear power will stretch overworked experts, risking disaster.


  1. You really need to have a research on how government running a nuclear power plant. They not just hiring the local scientists and workers, they also have 15% to 30% foreign workers. For example, in Qinshan nuclear power plant, the government of China even build a town for foreign workers. Based on that, you are just having groundless worries or anxieties which come from your discrimination of China. Do not quibble, I have been in your class, your point of Falungong which supported by Wiki articles makes me laugh out of loud. You know everyone can edit article on Wiki, right?? Do not do that stupid thing again. If you want to convince someone to agree with your point, plz go to do some research by your own. Wiki, phew... , more like a joke. By the way, I know you should really know something about China which is the most successful country in the world to against poverty. I give you a Ted video, which is one of the best talks of 2013, also one of the 1000+ Ted talks. https://www.ted.com/talks/eric_x_li_a_tale_of_two_political_systems

  2. What's more, have you ever known how long should be taken to build a nuclear power plant? And how much money should be spent to build one plant?? 41 plants in 100 years? or 1000 years?? think of things like that before your post. In fact,i do not even know where you get these numbers ?Wiki again?? Here, another link http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-A-F/China--Nuclear-Power/ which says 20 nuclear power reactors in operation and ONLY 28 under construction. Lets assume each plant has 3 reactors, only 9 plants under contraction. Where is the 41 come from ?? "Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world's most advanced, to give more than a three-fold increase in nuclear capacity to at least 58 GWe by 2020, then some 150 GWe by 2030, and much more by 2050." This is the second point of the research. So China are build the 3rd generation nuclear power plant, stop worrying about the new design is a world away.

  3. And please read the the 6 points carefully and clearly in the beginning of this article which done by World-nuclear organization(a UK governmental organization, not from China ). This article saying a totally different story compared with your student's work. Remember, you are a teacher, you are responsible to check your students work, and correct them if they are doing wrong or lying in the essay.I will paste the link again in case you can know fully about recent Chinese nuclear power plant situation.


  4. @gameover -- it's a pity that you are disrespectful, which lowers the value of your comments (and they are not always useful), but I will reply to some of your comments:

    1) China's censorship against its own people is far worse than any bias on wikipedia.
    2) China's "success" against poverty should be judged by its earlier, terrible failures that made Chinese people so poor between 1950 and 1980.
    3) The number come from the linked article.
    4) You're "math" is terrible, as 150GWe could be met by 100 new plants.
    5) You're claim that "3rd generation is safe" is wrong, given the need for training.
    6) Your third comment is so infantile that I will let it stand as a measure of my tolerance to your poor manners. The best part is that you did not even read your own link, to find out future nuclear expansion.
    7) If you were in my class, I hope you did better work than I see here. It's not just rude, but weak. Grade: C-

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. @gameover. Go troll elsewhere. You're banned (censored).


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