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Nuclear Power Is Booming in Asia as US Industry Struggles

Construction workers work on the Phase II nuclear power plant at the LingAo nuclear power plant in Daya Bay, Guangdong province, China. | Ryan Pyle/Getty Images

More than half of the world's new nuclear capacity is under construction in Asia, while cheap natural gas and cost overruns have all but halted new construction in the US.

The lights may be dimming on nuclear energy in the United States, but the sun is still rising in the East.

The business is booming in Asia, where more than half of the world’s new nuclear capacity is under construction. The bulk of that is in China, which is building nuclear power plants at a rapid clip, using a combination of US, European, and domestically designed reactors. It has 20 reactors currently under construction, compared to a half-dozen in Western Europe and four in the United States.

China is still rapidly developing and trying to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power plants, said Ed Kee, CEO of the Nuclear Economics Consulting Group. That’s helping China reduce the country’s notorious air pollution and cut its carbon emissions — but it’s also helping the country build a valuable export industry, he said.

Meanwhile, South Korea has 25 reactors that provide about a third of its power, with five more under construction. Its Korea Electric Power Company is also building a four-unit nuclear plant in the United Arab Emirates, having won the bid over competitors from the United States, Russia, and France.

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