A few days ago, I mentioned my competitive concern about the progress being made in China in its program to build new nuclear power plants. Unlike the US, which has stimulated banks and consumption to try to jump start its economy, China is taking the opportunity of a lull in consumer demand to build infrastructure projects that will enable future productivity. Nuclear power plants are a growing part of that investment. Just a couple of years ago, the projection was that China would add 40 GW of nuclear electric power capacity over the next twenty years – last week the number rose to 130 GW of capacity.
According to a recent interview of Steve Kidd, director of the World Nuclear Association, he believes that China has all of the necessary tools to do the job. They have a welcoming group of local populations who want the economic benefits that they have seen from coastal nuclear power plants, they have plenty of cash, they have plenty of hard workers and they have good schools that produce hundreds of thousands of engineers every year. (I threw that last one in myself; Steve’s comment was that he did not expect too much difficulty in recruiting skilled labor.)
I am not pointing to Chinese progress as something that should be slowed – moving that large and productive country away from coal will be beneficial to all of us. However, it is something that should inspire competitive juices here in America and perhaps in other productive societies where there are still people who recognize that consumerism without productivity is a death spiral.
If China has a lot of low cost nuclear plants and a rail system that is no longer burdened with moving massive quantities of coal from inland mines, what will its productive capacity mean to the rest of the manufacturing world?