China's Nuclear Power Ambitions

The New York Times today reports that China is ramping up its nuclear power efforts in a big way. It plans to build three times as many nuclear power plants in the next decade as the rest of the world combined. The fear, of course, is that China doesn't take the necessary care to avoid accidents in constructing these plants. While that worry is understandable, the effort shows the nation's foresight.

China's enormous population will have an increased appetite for electricity as the nation develops. That means the country must figure out a way to satisfy that demand, and nuclear power is a smart option. It can provide a great deal of power without having to worry about the price of expensive fossil fuels which are becoming scarcer and scarcer, or the rare earth metals involved in manufacturing wind turbines.

It's also good news for global warming. The Times notes:

And with China already the largest emitter of gases blamed for global warming, the expansion of nuclear power would at least slow the increase in emissions.

Of course, those benefits all become kind of irrelevant if China does a shoddy job of constructing these power plants. As the Times notes, some won't be far from big cities and the rapid creation of the plants could pose safety concerns. Yet, I have to believe that China understands just how destructive a nuclear disaster could be for its people, so I find it hard to believe it's taking building these plants lightly. That's probably why, as the Times also reports, the country has asked for international help to train a force of nuclear inspectors.

I think the U.S. should follow China's lead on this one. I have long found it kind of bizarre that the U.S. hasn't done more to push nuclear power. It's the alternative energy that nobody seems to like to talk about. That's probably because people are still squeamish when it comes to nuclear power. Thoughts of three-eyed fish and catastrophic accidents cloud most people's perception of the energy source.

And that's a shame, because it could provide the U.S. with an awful lot of power. Nuclear power must have a prominent place in discussions to address the nation's future energy needs. I know safety is a concern, but there's an argument out there that even wind power can be quite dangerous. And, as mentioned, nuclear power is also a lot greener than some other sources, like fossil fuels. With a carbon emission credit system forthcoming, nuclear power will also become even more cost effective in the years that follow.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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