China Gears Up to Build New, Smaller Nuke Plants

China’s economy is expanding faster than Bruce Banner with road rage, straining against the limits of its current capacity for creating or importing energy — and pumping out some of the world’s worst air pollution. The plan? Go nuclear. This year China announced its intention to build 30 new nuclear power facilities by 2020, and a team of Chinese scientists told Beijing that by 2050 China could require 300 gigawatts of nuclear output — compare that to the 350 gigawatts produced worldwide today. While the Chinese government is aggressively building traditional liquid-cooled fuel rod nuke plants, it’s also pouring research money into a new design for so-called pebble-bed reactors. According to Chinese scientists, these cutting-edge reactors would be meltdown-proof and could be built quickly and cheaply using off-the-shelf, modular parts. Some enviros don’t trust the safety claims, and of course there’s that pesky problem of what to do with the waste that results from nuclear power generation. Still, a small but growing contingent of greenies say we’ll have to resort to nuclear to fight off climate change.