China will overtake US as the world’s largest nuclear power producer

Sep 13, 2023, 10:32am EDT
REUTERS/Reinhard Krause
net zeroEast Asia
Karina Tsui/

China is projected to surpass the U.S. as the largest producer of nuclear power within a decade. The U.S. holds 30% of the world’s nuclear capacity, but has stalled for 30 years, while China has tripled its supply in 10 years.

A new reactor being built along the Chinese coast, just 135 miles from Taiwan, reportedly contains Russian-supplied nuclear material1 , and the estimated size of Moscow and Beijing's combined arsenals could “dwarf that of the United States,” The New York Times reports. China has asserted that the reactor is only for civilian purposes and while there is no evidence that Russia and China are collaborating to produce nuclear weapons, the U.S. is now facing the challenge of managing a "three-way nuclear rivalry," the Times writes.

The Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters greatly impacted the growth of nuclear power, owing to public distrust and fear of it2 . Before 1986, the world was adding 500 terawatts of nuclear power per decade –– enough to power roughly 750 million homes. As the world’s largest consumer of coal, it is “encouraging to see China ramping up nuclear power,” Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer wrote for Forbes. India, which follows China as the world's second-largest coal consumer, is also increasing its nuclear production.

China is also predicted to reach 1 terawatt of solar capacity by 20263 –– doubling its total in three years. Solar energy has outpaced other power generation sources in China, with investment hitting nearly $16 billion in the first half of 2023. Though tough to pull off in coastal regions due to land restrictions, solar energy has become a popular option in populous provinces, such as Henan and Zhejiang, where panels are ubiquitous on rooftops.