A new normal? The changing future of nuclear energy in China

M.V. Ramana and Amy King

Learning from Fukushima


Find the full downloadable eBook here, and find Ramana’s chapter here.


In recent years, China has reduced its goal for expanding nuclear power capacity, from a target of 70 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 issued in 2009 to just 58 GW by 2020 issued in 2016. This chapter argues that this decline in targets stems from three key factors. The first factor is China’s transition to a relatively low-growth economy, which has led to correspondingly lower levels of growth in demand for energy and electricity. Given China’s new low-growth economic environment, we argue that the need for rapid increases in nuclear power targets will likely become a thing of the past. The second factor is the set of policy changes adopted by the Chinese government following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. Since the Fukushima disaster, China’s State Council has stopped plans for constructing inland nuclear reactors and restricted reactor construction to modern (third-generation) designs. The third factor is government responsiveness to public opposition to the siting of nuclear facilities near population centres. Collectively, these factors are likely to lead to a decline in the growth rate of nuclear power in China.