China is today the world's largest coal producer and consumer in the world. In 2006, the raw coal output amounted to 2.32 billion tones and installed coal fired power capacity reached 622 GWe (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2007). Chinese dependence on coal for energy and electricity production is clear when taking a look at Figures 1 and 2. Also to be noticed is the rapid growth of energy consumption in the past decade. Now if we consider projected growth for Chinese economy and the fact that the per capita primary energy consumption is still low compared to industrialized countries, it is obvious that energy supply will have to increase even more. Where will this energy come from? Considering the environmental risks of burning coal, should China's energy strategy not call for decreasing share of coal in the energy mix?
[...] Nuclear power in China Early stage of development In the 1950s, Mao Zedong was worried about the nuclear threat and started to develop a nuclear program with the help of the Soviet Union. In 1964, china tested its first nuclear bomb. However, at that time china's interest in nuclear power was purely military. The 1980s: beginning of the nuclear industry For a long time China neglected the potential of nuclear power generation because it was thought that, considering the amount of cheap coal, it was not interesting to invest in nuclear power plants. [...]
[...] However, probably a major difference in the development of these two systems is that if coal could develop almost everywhere a deposit existed with practically no technological requirements (given the low cost of labor), nuclear required much more planning and government intervention. References Energy Crisis and Growth 1650‐1850: the European deviation in a comparative perspective, Poalo Malanima Thomson, Elspeth, The Chinese Coal Industry: an Economic History. RoutledgeCurzon Rural Electrification in China: History and Institutions, Wuyuan Peng, Jiahua Pan Sino‐French nuclear cooperation, S.K. [...]
[...] However, even though the high development rate of small coalmines contributed to meeting the increasing energy demand, most local coal mines were not linked to railroad transportation, were not safe and were much less productive than large state coalmines. Furthermore, many local coal mines were illegally exploited. Consequently, coal resources were wasted and accidents were very frequent. From the late 1990s onwards. In the late 1990s liberalization of coal prices continued and after 2002 the central government no longer controlled the price of coal. [...]
[...] However, before the first five year plan was launched in 1955, coal production was not meeting demand and shortages did not disappear after 1955 because the targets for development were set too high. Overestimating production targets was frequent and this could explain why China was not very successful in creating a well organized coal industry. Indeed, by trying to control everything with central planning, the ministry was not aware of the real capacity, financing and planning necessary to meet such high targets. [...]
[...] Indeed, land and wood scarcity combined with a growing population triggered the European shift to coal The invention of the steam engine (James Watt in 1769) was also a determining factor which significantly changed the transport sector and set Europe and China on diverging paths. Coal‐fed engines did not reach China until the to late‐1800s when U.S. and Britain steamships began to be interested in refueling in China However, because of the poor quality and high prices of Chinese coal, real interest in Chinese coal only started in the late 1800s when foreign proposals helped develop the coal industry. [...]
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