East Asia - a nuclear hotspot?

December 4, 2011
Written by: Nicholas Newman


By 2050, at least half the world’s new nuclear power plants are likely to be built in East Asia. Most of these planned plants will be built in China, Taiwan and South Korea. However, there are tentative proposals for other plants to be erected elsewhere in the region, including Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.


As for Japan, its future depends on which black swans, acts of god and banana skin appears arises in the next year, as it determines its energy future. Currently, it is not surprising that there is a lot off public anger about events at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The revelations about what contributed to events at Fukushima Daiichi illustrate why Japan is finding it so difficult to get out of its pleasant economic plight today!


Japan Total Energy Consumption 2008 %









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One thing is for certain, Japan Inc., will have to make many painful institutional reforms if it is to win public support for a bright secure nuclear or non-nuclear future for Japan. Leadership failure in Japan's nuclear industry.

East Asia

Elsewhere in the region, the events at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have caused countries to pause and reflect about their nuclear power programs. As a result, new design and regulatory standards has been put in place. However, it has not stopped China, Taiwan and South Korea from continuing with its plans to expand its nuclear sector.

South Korea

Already, South Korean has announced plans to increase the number of nuclear power plants it operates from 21 today to 40 units by 2030. This will mean nuclear contribution to Korea’s electricity market will increase from 31% to 56% by 2020. Because of its lengthy experience of operating foreign technology, mainly Westinghouse for some time, Korea itself has now developed its own commercial design the OPR-1000. Korea plans to export at least 80 units by 2080, supplying perhaps 20% of the world market, bring new competition to suppliers in the US, France and Russia. Already, Korea has won an order to build four large reactors in UAE. In addition, it is seeking orders from Jordan, Turkey, Rumania, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Ukraine.


China has similar on-going plans to expand its nuclear power capacity from 10 GW today to 70 GW by 2020. It is currently building six new nuclear plants each year which could mean that by 2050 nuclear power will supply 400 GW of China’s needs. Again, like South Korea, China has evolved its own independent designs the CAP1000 AND CAP1400 based mainly on earlier imported Westinghouse designs. However, Western designs such as from the US and Europe are being built, including two 1650 MW European Pressurised Reactors on the coast near Shanghai at Sanmen.


Taiwan currently operates 5 nuclear power plants using the latest in Westinghouse and General Electric technology, at present two new plants are being constructed, with the first one due for completion in 2013. At present nuclear capacity provides 11% of total national generating capacity, which will increase once the new plants are in operation.

The Future

However, one thing is certain the future is bright for nuclear power in the East Asian region. Because of the entrants of new designs from this region, being developed should help make investment in nuclear power a more attractive commercial proposition than before.

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