Delegate Name: Charlisa Penzak
United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency
The Role of Nuclear Energy in Reducing Fossil Fuel Reliance
People’s Republic of China
Wylie E. Groves High School
Global warming and the role of fossil fueled carbon emissions is becoming an important issue for the sustainability of the planet. With increased concerns regarding climate change, countries have been exploring more sustainable alternatives, such as solar, hydro, wind, and nuclear energy.
Of the main green energy sources (solar, hydro, wind, and nuclear), nuclear fission is the only consistent source of energy and has minimal greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, according to the WNA’s 2021 nuclear performance report, since 1970, nuclear power plants prevented 72 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. China expects that nuclear reactors are the energy source of the future and believes that nuclear energy has much potential in reducing carbon emissions.
Nuclear power has already been expanding — it’s estimated that in the status quo, 10% of the world’s energy comes from nuclear reactors and power plants. Thirty-two countries operate 438 nuclear reactors (as of February 2023) and construction of more is rapidly increasing. Similarly, the research and development of nuclear technology is becoming more essential, especially in areas like nuclear safety, nuclear waste, and more. China encourages international cooperation, not only on nuclear research, but in collaborating on energy infrastructure projects.
China understands the importance of clean energy and the threat posed by carbon emissions and global warming. However, with such a large and growing demand for energy, China’s first and foremost priority is to steadily supply citizens and businesses with power. Only after this need is met do we focus on green energy. We adopt the principle of ‘getting the new before discarding the old’. Nonetheless, the president Xi Jinping states that China will advance the planning and development of renewable energy initiatives, so that the transition happens as soon as possible while considering the needs of our citizens. China has the largest population in the world, and thus faces the largest burden in the transition to green energy.
Even so, China invests more than any other country in clean energy, and aims to be carbon neutral by 2060 after peaking emissions before 2030. As of January 2023, the World Nuclear Association (WNA) reports that China is home to 55 nuclear reactors and over 20 more are under construction. Already in the status quo, 26% of China’s energy is from clean sources, which is more than the US (17%) and most western countries. Research by the IAEA indicates that China is the fastest expanding nuclear power in the world and our country is a major exporter and a leading innovator in nuclear technology.
The Chinese National Development and Reform Commission works with the government to implement strict energy price controls that directs the nation towards a greener path. Additionally, the Chinese government has worked with state-owned and private companies to support renewable energy initiatives. China has set ambitious goals by extending the 13th five-year plan, which calls for a substantial increase in gigawatt hours from nuclear sources.
Furthermore, China plans to build over 30 nuclear power plants with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)*. Some may raise concerns that these programs could spread nuclear material and aid the proliferation of nuclear weapons, however, most of the involved countries are members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Moreover, China has safety measures in place and has repeatedly stressed the purely green-energy focused intentions of the partnerships.
China is a major world actor in the climate future and is open to collaboration. China recognizes the important role that nuclear energy will come to play in the reduction of carbon emissions, but also acknowledges that nuclear energy isn’t without faults, such as radioactive nuclear waste and safety concerns. As such, nuclear innovation and examination of closed/open systems is important to address these issues. China is a lead innovator in this field and currently possesses a fuel reprocessing strategy.
China believes that international cooperation is important to the advancement of nuclear technology and energy. Furthermore, additions to the BRI are welcomed and highly encouraged. While most developed countries already have substantial nuclear energy programs, China is willing to invest in allied developing countries to assist with their energy initiatives and is already building nuclear power plants in Argentina, Pakistan, Turkey, Romania, and more (according to an analysis from the International Institute of Strategic Studies). Many struggling countries have been unable to invest in nuclear reactors due to the substantial costs, but China is paving the way toward a greener future by aiding countries that need assistance.
China is optimistic about the nuclear energy future and hopes that innovation and collaboration will be the standard by which the IAEA can implement successful resolutions regarding the role of nuclear energy in reducing fossil fuel reliance.
*The BRI is a massive infrastructure initiative that aims to connect countries from around the world. China has taken a special interest in energy infrastructure and is helping developing countries across the world achieve costly nuclear technology by jointly investing in them.