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U.S. Nuclear Dominance Under Threat from China's Rapid Expansion

U.S. Nuclear Dominance Under Threat from China's Rapid Expansion

May 23, 2024

U.S. Nuclear Dominance Under Threat from China's Rapid Expansion

China has emerged as a rising nuclear energy titan, potentially surpassing the United States and France to become the world's leading producer of nuclear energy. With a strategic push to expand its nuclear capabilities, China has added 34 gigawatts of nuclear energy capacity in the past decade. The nation now boasts 55 operational nuclear reactors and has an additional 23 under construction, with plans for more. This rapid expansion has been facilitated by the Chinese government's ability to swiftly approve new reactors and the relatively low construction costs supported by state-owned banks.

The United States, traditionally the largest nuclear power generator, has seen a marked slowdown in its nuclear sector. In contrast, China's accelerated growth has raised concerns among U.S. policymakers. They fear that China's ability to export nuclear reactors on a large scale could influence foreign relations in countries importing Chinese nuclear technology, extending China's energy influence in emerging markets.

Adding to the geopolitical unease, China's plans to deploy floating nuclear power plants in the contested South China Sea have sparked apprehension among Southeast Asian nations. The South China Sea is a hotbed of overlapping territorial claims, particularly between China, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Despite a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated China's expansive claims over the region, Beijing has disregarded international law and continued to strengthen its presence by constructing artificial islands. The proposal to station about 20 floating nuclear power plants in this area has prompted experts to warn of increased regional security risks and the potential militarization of these installations.

Moreover, China's nuclear ambitions extend beyond Earth, as evidenced by the joint announcement with Russia to develop a nuclear reactor on the moon. Russian state media has reported that the lunar nuclear plant project is already in progress, with experimental and research facilities being developed under this collaboration.

The international community has expressed concerns over safety and the militarization of space in response to the lunar project. These ambitious plans serve as a testament to China's expansive nuclear energy objectives, which have implications for global geopolitical dynamics, energy security, and the strategic balance of power in both terrestrial and extraterrestrial domains.

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