China is set to emerge world’s largest nuclear power generator by end of 2020 even though it will continue to rely on coal to generate bulk of its electricity needs, a Rio Tinto executive has said.

“By the end of the decade, the emerging economic superpower was expected to leap to the number two position (in power generation), before overtaking the United States in the 2020s, producing 100 gigawatts of power,” said Rio Tinto Energy general manager (markets and Industry analysis) Stephen Wilson.

“Their (China) vision is to produce 400 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2050. That’s been publicly stated by Chinese officials,” Wilson was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press (AAP).

“That’s more than the whole world has got today,” he said.

However, he said both India and China would continue to rely heavily on coal for the bulk of their electricity needs and to keep up with growing demand.

He said the growth in nuclear energy in China would come from new third generation power plants that produced electricity more cheaply than coal and gas plants in coastal China.

“What we are looking at in China now is a situation where it is the very early stages of a very, very significant nuclear build programme,” Wilson said.

“This is a quiet revolution.” he said.

Wilson said meeting the rising energy demand of billions of people would require both improvements in energy efficiency and ways to find new resources.

(This article was published on November 19, 2012)
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