China has initiated operations at the world's First New fourth-generation nuclear reactor, as reported by state media on Wednesday. Situated in the Shidaowan plant of northern Shandong province, this new reactor represents a leap forward in fuel efficiency, economic viability, safety, and environmental impact compared to its predecessors. China is embracing nuclear power as part of its strategy to align with carbon emission targets.
The Shidaowan facility, a 200-megawatt (MW) high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor (HTGCR), is a collaborative effort between state-run utility Huaneng, Tsinghua University, and China National Nuclear Corporation. It boasts a modular design, a concept referring to plants smaller than 300MW that can be assembled off-site. Advocates argue these reactors can function in remote areas and power industries traditionally difficult to decarbonize, yet critics voice concerns about their high costs.
Despite initial projections naming NuScale Power as the first U.S. company authorized to construct a small modular reactor, the company announced the termination of a planned 462MW project in Utah due to escalating expenses.
China aims to generate 10% of its electricity from nuclear sources by 2035 and escalate this figure to 18% by 2060. However, as of September last year, it fell short of its 2020 target to install 58 gigawatts of nuclear capacity. Notably, China refrained from joining a coalition of 20 nations at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai that pledged to triple nuclear power capacity by 2050.