Published on Monday November 19 2012 (AEST)
CHINA is on track to become the world's largest generator of nuclear power between now and some time in the 2020s, a senior Rio Tinto executive says. Rio Tinto Energy general manager of markets and industry analysis Stephen Wilson said China was currently about the eighth or ninth largest nuclear energy producer. By the end of the decade, the emerging economic superpower was expected to leap to the number two position, Mr Wilson said, before overtaking the United States in the 2020s, producing 100 gigawatts of power.
"Their vision is to produce 400 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2050. That's been publicly stated by Chinese officials," Mr Wilson told the Australian Institute of Energy national conference in Sydney on Monday. "That's more than the whole world has got today." The growth in nuclear energy in China would come from new third generation power plants that produced electricity more cheaply than coal and gas plants in coastal China, he said. "What we are looking at in China now is a situation where it is the very early stages of a very, very significant nuclear build program," Mr Wilson said.
"This is a quiet revolution." Mr Wilson noted Japan's reduced nuclear energy production after the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster, as well as moves from countries such as Germany and Switzerland to cut back on nuclear energy production. Despite the big buildup in nuclear power, Mr Wilson said China, as well as India, would continue to rely heavily on coal for the bulk of its electricity needs and to keep up with growing demand.
Mr Wilson said meeting the rising energy demand of billions of people would require both improvements in energy efficiency and how to find new resources. "We hope there will be significant improvements, significant contributions from energy efficiency but there will need be growth in energy supply," Mr Wilson said.
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