BEIJING: China has launched its first domestically developed nuclear reactor – the Hualong One – an important step in Beijing’s efforts to become less dependent on Western allies for energy security and critical technology.
According to China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the reactor, which was connected to the grid on Friday, Nov. 27, can generate 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity every year and reduce CO2 emissions by 8.16 million tons.
“This marks China by breaking the monopoly of foreign nuclear power technology and officially entering the technology’s first batch of advanced countries,” CNNC said in a statement.
Nuclear power plants provided less than 5 percent of China’s annual electricity needs in 2019, according to the National Energy Administration, but this share is expected to increase as Beijing tries to become carbon neutral by 2060.
Reducing its reliance on Western allies in critical high-tech sectors such as power generation is a major goal of Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan.
READ: China will build 6 to 8 nuclear reactors annually between 2020 and 2025: Report
Billions of dollars in state subsidies have been given to Chinese companies to speed up the process – a move that has angered China’s trading partners and sparked a protracted trade dispute with Washington.
Work on the Hualong One reactor began in 2015, and six other reactors are currently under construction at home and abroad, said CNNC, a state-owned company.
Deployed at a factory in Fujian Province in eastern China, the Hualong One will be put into commercial use by the end of the year after testing.
China has 47 nuclear power plants with a total generating capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts – the third largest in the world, after the United States and France.
Beijing has invested billions of dollars in recent years to develop its nuclear power sector as it struggles to wean its economy off coal.
Despite environmental and safety concerns, 13 nuclear power plants are under construction, more than in any other country.
In August 2016, officials were forced to set aside plans for a nuclear waste facility in Lianyungang, a city in eastern Jiangsu province, after a rare public outcry from thousands of residents.