China's Power Plants: A Dual Threat

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Japan's reactor damage makes Evan Osnos question the quality of China's nuclear plants:

China presents a unique dilemma for energy strategists: it is expanding nuclear power in a race to meet rising demand for electricity and replace heavily polluting coal power plants. If China’s greenhouse emissions keep rising at the rate they have for the past thirty years, the country will emit more of those gases in the next thirty years than the United States has in its entire history. But this week has laid out in all the detail we could imagine what could result from the combination of rapid construction, poor oversight, and events that were previously dismissed as unimaginable.

In some cases China builds world-class pieces of infrastructure, but we have also seen a steady drip of deeply disconcerting examples of a system growing too fast for its own good. Most recently, when Liu Zhijun, chief of the Chinese Railways Ministry was sacked on corruption charges, it emerged that his agencycelebrated for installing high-speed trainsinstalled concrete bases for the nation’s train tracks that used cheap, faulty chemical hardening agents, which don’t allow trains to maintain their current speeds of about two hundred and seventeen miles per hour for long.

(Photo: Workers walk past a part of Qinshan No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant, China's first self-designed and self-built national commercial nuclear power plant in this June 10, 2005, file photo, in Qinshan, about 125 kilometers (about 90 miles) southwest of Shanghai, China. Global warming and rocketing oil prices are making nuclear power fashionable, drawing a once demonized industry out of the shadows of the Chernobyl disaster as a potential shining knight of clean energy. By Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

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