Nuclear power

A Pyrrhic Victory

DALIAN, Sept. 22, 2016 (Xinhua) -- A man works at the control room of No.2 power generation unit of the Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Station in Wafangdian of Dalian City, northeast China's Liaoning Province, Sept. 22, 2016. The first phase of the Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Station project, the first nuclear power plant in northeast China, is completed, authorities announced Tuesday. (Xinhua/Pan Yulong) (zkr [ Rechtehinweis: picture alliance/ZUMA Press ]
China is in control.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany set high standards for nuclear power. The anti-nuclear movement can take some credit for that but since it killed off the German sector, China will be left to set the bar.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • China is planning 60 new nuclear power stations.
    • Europe’s first new nuclear power station in a decade is to be built by a Franco-Chinese consortium.
    • Germany’s nuclear safety standards tend to be higher than those of other countries.
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    Audio

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Over the next 10 years, China wants to build at least six nuclear power stations per year. That means 60 new nuclear reactors. Over the same period, new nuclear power stations are planned in 14 E.U. countries but only half of them are likely to be built. These are figures which will make industrial history.

After weighing up the risks of climate change and nuclear power, Beijing has come to the conclusion that for the time being, there is no viable alternative to nuclear.

Even with the 60 new plants, nuclear power will still only make up 10 percent of Chinese electricity. That figure is currently around 20 percent in the United States and 70 percent France. In Asia, South Korea leads the pack at 30 percent.

That means China still has some leeway. But whether you are for or against nuclear power, one conclusion can be drawn from the decision in Beijing. The future of nuclear technology will be decided in China.

Chinese companies offer the most cost-effective nuclear solutions, including favorable financing.

That’s not just because of the power stations it is planning at home. A considerable number of new nuclear facilities in the West are either being built by the Chinese, or with their participation. Chinese companies offer the most cost-effective solutions, including favorable financing.

The first new European nuclear power station after a break of 10 years is being constructed by a Franco-Chinese consortium.

It is clear that the Germans no longer decide on nuclear safety standards. That’s as true in Europe, where nobody listens to nuclear exit lobbyists anymore, as it is globally. And it’s regrettable. German nuclear power stations were the safest of all, until Angela Merkel decided on their demise.

Measures considered essential in Germany are regarded as superfluous by many of our neighbors. As technology leader and top exporter, we would have had the power to co-determine safety standards – even in China. Every “hidden champion” in Germany knows how that works. Even Bill Gates has moved research facilities for his Terra-Power nuclear project to Beijing.

The fact that our nuclear power stations were so safe was not just down to our top engineers but also to pressure exerted by anti-nuclear activists.

Yes, there is resistance to nuclear power in China too. Last month a few thousand people demonstrated against a planned reprocessing plant north of Shanghai. But it is highly improbable that Chinese resistance will develop the same force as its German counterpart.

From a global point of view, the latter’s triumph could well become a pyrrhic victory.

 

To contact the author: sieren@handelsblatt.com

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