Archive for the ‘China’ Category
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
February 3, 2011
The Chinese are going whole hog on nuclear technology. Not only do they have 20 uranium-fuel reactors under construction with 30 more in the planning stage, they are now diving into thorium research as well.
Many nuclear scientists have argued that thorium is really the way to go with civilian power. One story is that Enrico Fermi pushed thorium in the early days, but the military’s demand for plutonium from uranium reactors became the determining factor.
This report in Wired worries openly that America is going to get left behind in nuclear technology. “If the reactor works as planned, China may fulfill a long-delayed dream of clean nuclear energy,” says reporter Richard Martin. “The United States could conceivably become dependent on China for next-generation nuclear technology. At the least, the United States could fall dramatically behind in developing green energy.” Wired is one of the few popular magazines in the country that understands nuclear technology and takes it seriously.
India, Norway and France are all exploring thorium technology. India is particularly interested because of its abundant thorium resources. The U.S. once had a thorium program but – like just about everything else in nuclear – it was eventually abandoned.
“According to thorium advocates, the United States could find itself 20 years from now importing technology originally developed nearly four decades ago at one of America’s premier national R&D facilities,” concludes the Wired report. “The alarmist version of China’s next-gen nuclear strategy come down to this: If you like foreign-oil dependency, you’re going to love foreign-nuclear dependency.”
Read more about it at Wired
Monday, September 27th, 2010
"[A]t the 35th annual conference of the World Nuclear Association in London last week, many of the 700 delegates wondered how long it would be before this meeting relocated to Asia, so great is the level of activity in the East."
So begins this excellent report from Ziggy Switkowski, business reporter for the Australian journal, The Age. Switkowski records it all – Asia is embracing nuclear technology while Europe and the West are falling behind. (Australia, which has banned nuclear construction and even banned uranium exports for awhile, falls into this category.)
"Of the 57 nuclear reactors under construction globally, 24 are in China. Another 27 are due to start in the next three years which together with the current 12 operating units makes 63, well on the way to meeting China’s target of 70 gigawatts of nuclear generation by 2020. . . . Some 200 gigawatts of nuclear electricity is planned by 2030 in China – that will be three times Australia’s total energy capacity then."
The Age report also notes that the hands-on experience of building new reactors will give China a huge advantage in tackling the export market:
"Chinese firms are insisting on transfer of nuclear intellectual property with all construction contracts and they are improving upon Western project management. Most financial risk of cost overruns occurs during the construction phase. Today that period averages 60 months, but US-French-Chinese consortiums are on a path to halving this in the next few years. The Chinese nuclear industry is focusing upon standardisation, operational excellence, unit cost and cycle time reduction – familiar manufacturing metrics whose optimisation has produced Chinese leadership in many products over this past decade.
"This contrasts with the West, where regulatory and political hurdles handicap new facility starts and construction. Even getting clearance to build new conventional electricity transmission grids can take 10 years in the US."
Nor is China the only player in the game. The report notes that India, Korea and Russia are all following similar paths, mastering the technology at home and then priming themselves for exports.
In good journalism fashion, Switkowski wraps up the story by putting the last piece of the puzzle in place:
"Incidentally, the next World Nuclear Association Conference will be in Beijing."
Read more at The Age
Friday, September 24th, 2010
GE CEO Jeff Immelt warned yesterday that the United States is falling far behind in the development of nuclear technology, blaming government inaction for the trend.
"The rest of the world is moving 10 times faster than we are," Immelt told Gridwise Global Forum conference in Washington. "This is a great country. But, you know, we have to have an energy policy. This is just stupid what we have today."
Immelt was particularly caustic about the slow pace of the Nuclear Renaissance in the U.S. "The industry’s most important output these days is press releases," he said.
"There should be a nuclear renaissance in this country," he added. "The nuclear industry is here because government supported it in the United States. This notion that government is not a catalyst in this industry has no basis in fact."
Immelt particularly praised China’s state-dominated energy effort and contrasted it to the regulatory regime in this country, which he called "a relic of 1860." He said that conflicting state and federal regulatory authority had stymied upgrades of our "antiquated grid." He said business and government had not yet decided whether the so-called "smart grid" was going to be "a business or just a hobby."
Immelt’s comments did not win complete approval from his audience. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said the Chinese model of a state-run energy industry would hurt innovation. Laura Ipsen, general manager for smart grid at Cisco Systems, agreed. "There are some potential downsides to having one national utility," she told The Wall Street Journal, saying it could produce over-commitment to what turns out to be poor technology.
GE has had modest gains in the global Nuclear Renaissance, with contracts to build only two of the 27 new reactors proposed in the U.S. and limited business abroad. Westinghouse and AREVA now have front-runner status in the prospective U.S. market — and Korea and Russia are moving swiftly abroad. "Essentially, we’re competing against other countries," Immelt has complained previously.
Read more at the Wall Street Journal
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
If there is any doubt that China intends to lead the world in developing nuclear power, it was effectively erased yesterday when the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced a comprehensive $120 billion plan for nuclear energy expansion over the next two decades.
In addition to government funding, CNNC adds a capitalistic twist by saying it will tap world investment markets. “We plan to rope in strategic investors by the end of this year,” Chen Hua, president of CNNC Nuclear Power Co Ltd., told China Daily. “Our company will get ready for listing in the first half of next year.”
Chen did not specify where the stock would be offered. China just finished installing the third steel ring of the containment structure on the world’s first Westinghouse AP1000 at Sanmen. The project is on time and on budget, scheduled to be finished in 2013 at an estimated cost of $5 billion. At this rate, China could build as many as 24 new reactors with its $120 billion plan, providing about one-quarter of its electrical needs.
China is also aggressively entering the world nuclear supplier market, as indicated by its announcement this week of an agreement to build two reactors in Pakistan. The announcement had a Cold War tinge to it, since the U.S. has already signed agreements with India to help develop its nuclear program. The move has been criticized in some quarters because India has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"In any case," said one nuclear industry observer. "the unavoidable conclusion is that the rapid adoption of nuclear power will probably be the world’s most significant technological development over the next decade — and China is the odds on favorite to catapult into the lead."
Read more at The China Post
Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
China has a problem we might wish we had. Its nuclear program is advancing so rapidly that it’s running short of nuclear engineers.
That’s the concern raised this week by Li Ganjie, chief of National Nuclear Safety Administration and also vice-minister of environmental protection. "The training for professional staff is inadequate,” Li told Reuters. “We are short of specialized talent and also short of experience."
China has 28 reactors currently under construction, 40 percent of the world’s total. Engineering programs have exploded and China now awards 10,000 PhDs in engineering each year. We only award 8,000 and 75 percent of those go to foreign students. In 2005 the National Academies warned the U.S. was falling far short in engineering talent but so far there has been no response.
In China, on the other hand, the problem does not appear to be lack of enthusiasm for engineering courses but the breakneck pace of the country’s nuclear expansion. China has 40 more reactors on the drawing boards and is planning a Nuclear City in Haiyan, 75 miles south of Singapore.
Still Li, who handles the country’s environmental affairs, is worried. He said the country would need 5,000 to 6,000 new nuclear professionals each year instead of the current 2,000. (Not all engineering graduates, of course, are in nuclear.)
Li said that although the country had not yet experienced a significant nuclear accident, the lack of professional talent made it more likely. It will be important to maintain a perfect record, he told Reuters, because “people are mistrustful of the industry.”
Read more at Reuters