Nuclear power is no longer the top energy source in China. Wind power has overtaken nuclear power, and in 2012, wind farms generated 2% more electricity than nuclear power plants. This gap will only widen in the years to come.
China was in the throes of growing its nuclear energy program when the Fukushima disaster occurred in Japan. The Chinese government decided to suspend nuclear reactor approvals and conduct methodical safety reviews of all plants either under construction or in operation.
When they lifted the moratorium in 2012, stricter rules were put in place, and the government decreed that only Generation-III models be approved since they meet stronger safety standards. However, China has no experience with these models, and the few that are under construction are experiencing major delays. China’s inexperience with Generation-III reactors adds speculation on prospects for achieving a more reasonable 2020 goal, which is 70,000 megawatts.
Wind power, however, is looking far more possible in China, and the government is taking advantage of the relative ease of implementing wind power measures. Wind developers connected 19,000 megawatts of wind power capacity to the grid during 2011 and 2012. Experts predict as much or more will be added over the course of 2013.
The Chinese have made a concerted effort to expand and upgrade the grid, and by December 2012, 80% of China’s 75,600 megawatts of wind capacity were grid-connected.
Experts acknowledge that wind power is much more helpful than nuclear power. Wind resources cannot be depleted, there are no major climate consequences, and no fossil fuels are needed to run wind farms.
Nuclear reactors, however, need an immense amount of uranium to be imported, making it a costly option and one that is not as environmentally friendly.
Wind power is quickly becoming far more attractive than traditional energy sources, particularly in countries that face severe water shortages.