Power is so scarce, why not vigorously develop nuclear power?

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Source: wechat official account: Jiubian has been authorized to reprint

We all know about the recent power rationing in Sichuan. Because it is the dry season recently, the water level in many rivers in Sichuan has dropped by 50%, the power generation capacity has decreased, and the power is insufficient. Some places have started to limit power.

Every time there is a power cut, a large number of voices wonder why China does not vigorously develop nuclear power. I have written about this issue before. This time, I contacted several small partners specializing in this field to try to explain it to you.

As we all know, 70% of China’s electricity is thermal power, that is, coal-fired power generation. This is why many people say that China’s current electric vehicles are actually “coal-fired vehicles”, because the electricity is mainly generated by coal, and will gradually switch to wind power and solar energy, which are nearly unlimited resources. However, from the situation in the past two years, coal-fired power is still the mainstream, which is difficult to shake. Because the output of coal-fired power is stable, there is no “dry season” and there will be no impact on the power grid, “Everyone dislikes coal-fired power, but coal-fired power is the most stable one in the end.”.

However, China’s coal itself is not particularly sufficient. There is a data called the coal reserve production ratio, which means that it can be dug for several years according to the current situation.

As the country with the highest coal reserves in the world, the United States has 390 years, Russia has 369 years, and China has only 37 years. China’s proven coal reserves rank among the top in the world, but the reserve production ratio is far lower than that of other countries. If this goes on, China will soon have to import coal on a large scale. In fact, China’s coal imports are also increasing year by year, with more than 300 million tons imported in 2021.

That is to say, China’s coal can be used for less than 40 years. Of course, this is not so absolute, because there are many new proven reserves of coal in China every year. However, we can also find that our reserves are not good, but the development volume is large, which is obviously not sustainable.

Moreover, the discovered coal mines are getting more and more remote, and the transportation cost is getting higher and higher. Electricity is almost the same as vegetables. It is cheaper in the local area, and the transportation is getting more and more expensive. For the simplest example, in some remote power plants in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, the electricity price is as low as less than 20 cents, and it often doubles after being transported. This is why before the state vigorously regulates block chain mining, every year in the dry season in Sichuan, the mine owners will dismantle the mining machines and transport them to Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, to use local cheap electricity for mining. It is a fact that China is short of coal. The main problem is that the consumption of electric coal is too large.

So this is one of the reasons why we are vigorously developing clean energy.

There are several common types of clean energy. In comparison, hydropower has the greatest advantage. Not only is the price of power generation cheap, but also the reservoir built by the power station has the effect of regulating water volume and irrigation. Large power stations can even change the landform. For example, the Baihetan Hydropower Station, according to the local people, has “turned the Jinsha River into a lake connected with a lake”. Where is the Jinsha River? It has always been famous for its steep terrain and rapid water flow, and now it is much more gentle.

However, hydropower stations have requirements on site selection and water volume. Most of the rivers in China are concentrated in the southwest. It is also a challenge for CLP to transport in the mountains. Therefore, “power transmission from west to East” is a super project similar to “coal transportation from north to South” and “water diversion from south to North”. I read a book on water conservancy a few days ago. It said that the most important role of the “south to North Water Diversion” is not to supplement the water consumption of northern cities, but to supplement the groundwater in the north.

As for wind power and photovoltaic power, there are also requirements for air volume and sunshine. Most of these resource rich areas are located in relatively remote places. Moreover, these two kinds of electricity have certain risks. For example, remember the power failure in Texas. The fans were frozen by the ice storm, and the power was insufficient. The whole state was shut down. There was no electricity in the winter, and everyone was shivering with cold. This is why wind power and photovoltaic power must be planned to solve the problem of simultaneous power failure in a large area.

The good solution that can be thought of now is to develop energy storage, store the electricity generated by wind power and solar energy, and in case of power failure, it can also be topped up in time. Therefore, the power storage industry will be a super industry and will usher in a big explosion. All the partners of the stock trading fund know that the share price of the sodium battery developed by Ningde times has soared a while ago, not only because it is cheaper than the lithium battery (but it is much heavier than the lithium battery, and it is not cost-effective to use it in the car), but also because the energy storage related to new energy may use this technology in the future. When the time comes, the electricity will be stored for two or three days. In case it is cloudy or windless for several days, it will not be able to generate one degree of electricity.

Among the clean energy sources, the most advantaged one is nuclear energy.

However, nuclear power plants are also very troublesome, and site selection is a super complicated matter:

First of all, there must be a large amount of water, because the operation and cooling of nuclear power plants require a large amount of water. This is why the nuclear power plants in China are generally located in the coastal areas. In France and Germany, they are generally built by the lake, or they simply build a dam to build nuclear power plants. The following figure shows the layout of large-scale energy bases in China’s 14th five year plan. It can be seen that nuclear power is planned in the coastal areas.


Some people in China have been promoting the construction of nuclear power beside the big rivers, but the development and Reform Commission is very vigilant about this, because China’s super cities are all beside the big rivers, and it is impossible to bear the consequences of a slight occurrence.

Second, we can’t be in the earthquake zone. We all know this, so we won’t talk about it.

Next is the most sensitive issue of public opinion. Generally speaking, it is said that “nuclear power plants are very safe”. This feeling is often due to a deep understanding of how nuclear power plants operate. If you are very sure that nuclear power plants are very safe, you often have to have a relevant degree to say so. The problem is that ordinary people do not have a degree in nuclear physics. How can they understand? They often say, “I strongly support nuclear power, but don’t build it near my home”. Therefore, the site selection of nuclear power plants has always been very troublesome, and if it is not done well, it will be resisted.

The last and most troublesome link is the issue of nuclear waste (people in the nuclear power industry don’t say so, they call those wastes “spent fuel”), just as there will be cinders after coal is burned, nuclear power plants will generate a large amount of nuclear waste after power generation, and how to deal with those radioactive nuclear waste is also a big problem.

Generally, the recyclable components are recycled first, and then the residues are loaded into special containers and buried in the ground for 500 to one kilometer. The radioactivity of these nuclear wastes will last for tens of thousands of years. Therefore, the nuclear waste landfill site itself is extremely expensive. After all, in case of an accident, it will be troublesome to pollute the underground water. France, as the leader of nuclear power, has studied this very deeply.

Knowing this, we know that the development of nuclear power itself needs to consider many, many things, and involves social public opinion and the mentality of the masses, which is even more complicated.

As for the effect of nuclear power, take Hualong No. 1, China’s most advanced autonomous generating unit, as an example. One Hualong No. 1 unit has an installed capacity of 1.2 million kWh and produces 10 billion kwh of electricity every year, which is equivalent to saving 3.5 million tons of coal every year. Nearly 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions are reduced each year, which is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by nearly 100 million trees in a year. In the case of thermal power, in order to transport these coal, a large amount of resources will be consumed, and the mining will also be consumed, and the environment damaged by mining will be repaired.

However, nuclear power has one shortcoming in the eyes of many people: safety. It can be said that since the United States first began to use nuclear power, the development of nuclear power in the past few decades has been delayed by three major accidents.

If we have a deep understanding of the three accidents, there are not many technical problems, and they are all human problems.

The first major accident was the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 in the United States. The process was very speechless. After the analysis, it was said that the indicator light of the emergency equipment was blocked by a maintenance card on the side, which caused the operators to make mistakes and almost caused a big accident. Fortunately, it did not explode.

This has dealt a great blow to the world’s nuclear power industry. Before that, according to the propaganda, complete control over nuclear technology can be achieved. The US government even declared that nuclear technology is a one-off, profit-making and absolutely safe business.

Ordinary people think that since nuclear submarines and nuclear powered aircraft carriers can ride around the sea with reactors, what problems can a nuclear power station with multiple protection have? So in those years, like the nuclear power plants in the United States, dozens of power stations and more than 100 reactors were built in more than a decade. Up to now, it is still the country with the largest number of nuclear power plants in the world. 20% of the electricity in the United States comes from nuclear power (only about 5% in China).

However, the problem occurred in this way. The Three Mile Island made the construction of nuclear power in the United States stagnate for decades. For a long time, American nuclear power companies relied on the export of technology for a living. It was not until many years later that new nuclear power plants were rebuilt.

If you have seen the famous American animation series The Simpsons (which is rated as the greatest animation series by the Americans), the protagonist – the most famous fool in the animation industry, Homer, works as a safety officer of the nuclear power station. If you have seen how he works, you will know that the writer is satirizing the Three Mile Island nuclear power station, and you can also see that the people do not trust the employees of the nuclear power station.

The second was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986. The main causes of this accident were the defective safety design and the serious irregularities of the operators.

Although the impact of Chernobyl on the national strength of the Soviet Union was not great, the impact of public opinion was so great that many people wanted to prove the inevitability of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and they will bring it out now. It can be seen that the problem of the nuclear power plant is far greater in the sociological level than in the technical level.

The third time was Fukushima. In 2011, a 9-magnitude earthquake occurred in the sea area near Fukushima, Japan. After the earthquake, the units in Fukushima stopped automatically and began to cool the reactor. However, the tsunami caused by the earthquake caused power interruption, and the core temperature without enough water to cool kept rising. Finally, an explosion occurred. The most wonderful thing is the owner of the nuclear power plant, Japan’s TEPCO. Several “shenanigans” caused the accident to continue to expand, and finally it could not be cleaned up.

It has been ten years since this year. According to the experts of the International Atomic Energy Organization, TEPCO and the Japanese government have dragged a level 4 accident, which is not as serious as that of Three Mile Island, into a level 7 accident like that of Chernobyl. Moreover, the level 7 accident of Fukushima is not level 7 because of the damage, but only level 7. They are qualified. Not only that, the Japanese still have the bowmaker spirit of “I’m wrong, I bow but I just don’t change”, and now they are still exporting harm to the world.

The Fukushima accident has dealt a great blow to nuclear power, and it can even be said that it has dealt a fatal blow to the global nuclear power industry.

Many countries have become pale when talking about nuclear power. Germany has made it clear that it will completely shut down its nuclear facilities. Instead, it will buy electricity from France. After a special investigation, Germany still has the last three nuclear power plants. It was originally planned to shut down all of them by the end of this year. However, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the shutdown may be delayed for several months. France is the second largest nuclear power country in the world, with nuclear power accounting for more than 70% of the national power generation.

Up to now, the world’s nuclear power is still at a low ebb. In particular, the attitude of the people in democratic countries has a great impact on national policies. In the words of the French Minister of energy, what a group of doctors do needs ordinary people to make decisions. The people are not at ease, resulting in a small number of new units in recent years, and many units built in the last century have reached the design age and will be closed.

From the world’s perspective, the French people as a whole are very tolerant of nuclear power. After the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, the whole world was worried that France would have problems. The reason was also mentioned just now. They have too many nuclear power plants. The French government is also worried that the troublesome people will take to the streets on a large scale to demand the dismantling of the nuclear power plant. In that case, the French government will not know where to get electricity.

However, it was later discovered that the French people who took to the streets for everything were extremely tolerant of nuclear power, and regarded nuclear power as their “own people” like Sophie Marceau. When others accused nuclear power of being unsafe, the French people said that the problem was not the nuclear power itself, but the people who operated it. So after all the nuclear power plants in Germany were dismantled, France remained as stable as an old dog.

There is no way for France to develop nuclear power. In the 1970s, there was an energy crisis all over the world. Considering that France had no coal and gas, the government was very strong and prepared to solve this dilemma with the national strength. Considering that he was a well-known “African chief”, he went to Africa and found that there were many uranium mines in Africa, so he began to make a great leap forward in nuclear power. The government paid for technology from the United States, mined from Africa, generated electricity in France, exported foreign exchange, and buried nuclear waste in Africa. Africa and France were really unlucky for eight generations. However, objectively speaking, French nuclear power technicians came from the United States and later became the first echelon in the world. Now many projects in China are still cooperating with France.

Although nuclear power is at a low ebb and China is also affected, China is still the most active country in the world to develop nuclear power.

After the Fukushima accident, China immediately suspended all the second-generation nuclear power projects to be approved. It was not until 2015 that the third-generation nuclear power technology hualong-1, a double-layer protective shell capable of withstanding the 9-magnitude earthquake, began to launch nuclear power projects.

For example, in 2020, a total of five nuclear power units in the world were officially started, including four in China and one in Türkiye. In 2021, four more nuclear power units were launched.

It is also certain that new nuclear power units will be launched every year in the future. However, the construction period of nuclear power is relatively long. The projects launched now may not start generating power until seven or eight years later. It can also be seen from the figure below that China has been continuously improving in recent years, but the growth rate has decreased in recent years:


However, we are still mainly engaged in wind power, hydropower and other new energy. On the one hand, wind power, hydropower and solar energy consume capacity but do not rely on resources. On the other hand, China is an oil and uranium poor country. Currently, the uranium ore mainly depends on Kazakhstan. If the consumption of uranium ore is further increased, it may have to be imported from Australia. Yes, Dakeng goods Australia is also a uranium rich country.

Speaking of this, some small partners may wonder whether photovoltaic, wind power and nuclear power will be meaningless if nuclear fusion is realized? I have also mentioned this question before, and I specially asked an expert from the Institute of Engineering Physics. It is not that simple.

Nuclear fusion research is a bit like the history of the development of trains. First, a rail car was built and then a locomotive was installed. At first, the locomotive was not as fast as a carriage. Then, the locomotive was improved and developed to the present heavy-duty train and high-speed railway. The same is true of nuclear fusion. Even if it is studied, the effect will not be very good at first, and it is not stable. The more important thing is that it is not cost-effective. It has to be iteratively evolved for several generations before it can be used as a commercial version, and finally it can be rolled out. No one can say for sure that this process may take decades, or it may take a generation, or even several generations. No one can say for sure. No one will bet all on it.

Therefore, nuclear fusion is still early, and thermal power will not exit the historical stage so soon, but it will slow down significantly in the future; Photovoltaic and wind power will certainly be promoted. However, as long as the issue of energy storage can not be solved, new energy has always been in the “development stage”, and the period of “green and yellow” is mainly supplemented by hydropower and nuclear power.

I found the government’s 14th five year plan. The original text is “accelerate the development of non fossil energy, adhere to both centralized and distributed development, vigorously improve the scale of wind power and photovoltaic power generation, accelerate the development of distributed energy in the East and central part, orderly develop offshore wind power, accelerate the construction of hydropower bases in the southwest, and promote the construction of coastal nuclear power safely and steadily”.

Wind power and photovoltaic power are “energetically”, that is, the main energy is to do this; Offshore wind power is “orderly”, that is, it is not too urgent but it should be carried out; Hydropower construction in Southwest China should also be “accelerated”, which means that it is not fast enough. In fact, hydropower construction is already fast.

Coastal nuclear power will continue to develop, but it is required to be “safe and sound”. The meaning of this word is equivalent to “slow”. For example, when you drive out, your mother yells “slow down, pay attention to safety” in the back, and will definitely not say “pay attention to safety, step on the accelerator into the fuel tank”. It can be seen that safety is indeed the key to nuclear power. One or two accidents are enough to destroy the whole industry.

At this point, the article is almost complete. Let’s sum up a few sentences.

1. The current international environment is not friendly to nuclear power. Compared with other countries, China has been vigorously developing nuclear power.

2. However, due to security problems, it is unlikely that China will be too radical because it is a depleted uranium country.

3. At present, another supporting technology is also being vigorously researched and developed, that is, the nuclear fuel recovery technology. From the beginning of technology introduction, China has become a world leader and has exported technology. It has gone through a hard road. As long as it persists, it will definitely be the peak of nuclear power in the world.

China is now in the period of energy transformation, and coal-fired power is doomed to have no future. On the one hand, the reserves are not enough; on the other hand, it is increasingly difficult to excavate. The cost of one ton of coal-fired power may be equivalent to the current ten tons in a few years, and too much reliance on coal-fired power and nuclear power may be choked. Therefore, it is necessary to hold high the banner of environmental protection to carry out the transformation. The transformation will certainly face pain. There will always be a period of power limitation in the past two years, which is also related to this, There’s nothing we can do about it. Let’s overcome the difficulties together. Just wait until we get through.

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