China today, after three decades of forced development and deployments, is poised to become the world’s leading nuclear power country during the first half of this century. If China succeeds, it will surpass all advanced nuclear power countries that failed so far to effect a transition from light-water reactors to fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle; in recent years China launched initial industrial-scale projects toward the achievement of this goal. But during the 2020s and beyond the environment for nuclear power development in China will constrain China’s resolve and capacity in several areas. These include deepening contradictions in electricity policy, challenges in technology development, the evolution of government and industry risk assessment, the persisting impact from the Fukushima accident, and the maturing of China’s political economy.
Mark Hibbs is Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. His research is focused on international nuclear trade, national nuclear power programs, and international nuclear governance. Hibbs has assisted the participating governments of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the leading global multilateral nuclear trade control arrangement, and is the author of the Carnegie report The Future of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, published in 2011. In 2012 Hibbs co-authored with James Acton a report on Why Fukushima Was Preventable. In 2014 Hibbs authored a study on Turkey’s policies concerning the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the NSG, as part of a project called Turkey’s Nuclear Future. Since 2012, Hibbs has led a project at Carnegie supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation concerning decision making in China’s nuclear energy program. In 2018 Hibbs published the final report from this project as a book: The Future of Nuclear Power in China; the Mandarin-language version of this report was published in China in 2019.