Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Do your own research on a certain issue mentioned in the textbook and post on the discussion board.?Prompt: What’s the issue that interests you the most in Chapter 9? How is China’s approach in handling it? What do you think would be a better approach to it? (300 words and your own ideas should be included after discussing the issue.) Include the textbook citation and one other external references. Don’t forget the in-text citations and the references at the end. APA FORMATTING!!! Use APA 7th as your formatting option. ??? The reading is attached below!! Read chapter 9 Environmental Problems!!Ch9-10.pdf | Writeden

Do your own research on a certain issue mentioned in the textbook and post on the discussion board. Prompt: What's the issue that interests you the most in Chapter 9? How is China's approach in handling it? What do you think would be a better approach to it? (300 words and your own ideas should be included after discussing the issue.)

Include the textbook citation and one other external references. Don't forget the in-text citations and the references at the end. APA FORMATTING!!! Use APA 7th as your formatting option.


The reading is attached below!! Read chapter 9 Environmental Problems!!


Historic Strains on China’s Environment Ma Rong discussed human problems in Chapter 8; in this chapter, I discuss the environment in which humans live and their interactions with it. De- spite improvements in some areas in recent years, the overall quality of China’s environment has deteriorated considerably since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The PRC’s current population of over 1.4 billion may already have exceeded the number that the country can hope to support at a good standard of living by relying on its own resources and has led to a massive growth in food imports (Xie Gaodi et al., 2012). Moreover, rapid unequal economic growth has led to environmental social unrest, which has increased significantly since 2000 (Steinhardt and Wu, 2016). Judith Shapiro (2012) identifies five intertwined drivers of recent change in China’s environmental policy: globalization, national identity (the views of what China should be), governance (reach of the state), civil society, and a desire for environmental justice. The political system is changing slowly, with the many local decisions that affect the environment often remaining beyond central government control. Even the most positive observers continue to see the combination of a huge population and eco- nomic activity within a framework lacking political transparency placing serious strains on China’s environment.

Modification of China’s environment goes back a long way, as Rhoads Murphey explained in Chapter 3. When humans first settled on the Loess Plateau in north central China (see Map 2.5), the area was probably covered with a mixture of forests and grasslands. Intensive use of some of these lands led to a reduction in vegetation and serious erosion on the plateau centuries ago. Similar problems occurred elsewhere as the proto-Chinese

9 China’s

Environmental Problems Richard Louis Edmonds

people proliferated, spread out, and incorporated other groups over the past 2,000 years (Edmonds, 1994:28–35). The Han Chinese evolved some eco- logically sound agricultural practices that improved the quality of the soil, but they stripped the land of forests as they spread southward (Vermeer, 1998:247–259). As they spread more slowly to the north and west, they began to farm virgin land and substantially degraded many fragile areas (Elvin, 2004; Marks, 2011).

During the 1950s, the Chinese focused on reconstructing a war-torn country and devising means to promote rapid economic growth. Although these efforts led to better attempts at hygiene and health care, the govern- ment generally viewed natural resources as a commodity to be exploited to create wealth. During the years of the so-called Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), large numbers of trees were felled for fuel to produce low- quality steel in small, highly polluting home furnaces. From 1960 to 1962, China was hit with a drought that, combined with these policies, produced the Three Bad Years (1960–1962) of widespread famine and staggering es- timations of death rates in the tens of millions (Dikötter, 2010; J. Yang, 2012; Pietz, 2015:219–232). In 1966, just as the country was devising poli- cies designed to avoid recurrence of such a catastrophe, Chairman Mao Ze- dong proclaimed the Cultural Revolution. Close to a decade of political un- rest followed, and ecological degradation became commonplace (Shapiro, 2001; X. Li et al., 2007; Pietz, 2015:235–238).

In the early 1970s, China began more vigorous efforts to deal with eco- logical problems, when the government created the National Environmental Protection Agency, and environmental planning first became included in national plans. However, the international scale of problems such as climate change and pollution of the oceans and polar caps increased. But some Chi- nese academics and policymakers argued that China must follow the “pol- lute first and clean up later” phase that the developed world had experi- enced before pollution control received high priority. Still, the government promulgated an Environmental Protection Law (for trial implementation) in 1979. Under this law, the agency began to write environmental impact statements on proposed heavy industry, manufacturing, and infrastructure projects. However, the recommendations of these impact statements gener- ally were ignored and were not available to the public.

From 1982, the concept of harmonious development (xietiao fazhan), similar to the idea of sustainable development formulated by the Brunt- land Commission, was adopted as official policy. It was supposed to initi- ate recycling and pollution abatement measures. However, the new small entrepreneurs did not comply. A full-fledged Environmental Protection Law was adopted in 1989, but environmental policy decisions continued to be held back by vagueness of the laws and local priorities that accentu- ated economic growth and corruption as well as the relative weakness of

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many local environmental protection bureaus (Ma and Ortolano, 2000; G. Chen, 2009).

In the 1990s, the Chinese system began to open with the formation of nongovernmental organizations, although many were either “government-or- ganized NGOs” or had to register under the supervision of government spon- sors leading to what could be called an embedded structure (P. Ho and Ed- monds, 2007). New laws allowed for a modest increase in public participation in environmental matters (Moore and Warrant, 2006:5–6; G. Chen, 2009:33–52) but, as already mentioned in Chapter 4, protest also grew consid- erably (Steinhardt and Wu, 2016). The rapid growth of China’s role in the in- ternational economy in the past two and a half decades has been accompanied by growing demands from the international community for China to adhere to international environmental standards at the level of a developed country. Moreover, there are increasing concerns about China’s investments in other countries causing serious environmental problems—largely through mining and dam construction and other infrastructure projects, including its One Belt, One Road project from China to Europe (Economy and Levi, 2014).

Contemporary Environmental Problems Pollution has grown rapidly in China while water supply, vegetation, soil quality, and other natural resources have dwindled. Urbanization has been rapid, with plans to relocate hundreds of millions of rural people to cities by 2030. There may well be a metacity stretching all the way from Beijing in the north through Shanghai to Hong Kong in the south by 2020 (Sta- moran, 2010). China already has much less land area, forest cover, and water resources per person than the average country. Cropland accounts for only 11 percent of China’s total area. China has been getting around food shortages by importing resources, which has facilitated environmental degradation in other countries.

Water Shortages China’s water shortage has grown steadily throughout the reform period (Gleick, 2009; L. Zhao and Seng, 2010:165–194; Bateman, 2014). The country currently supports over 18 percent of the world’s population with only 8 percent of the world’s water. Many rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and aquifers have shrunk or dried up during the past four decades and an esti- mated 55 percent of the country’s rivers that existed in the 1990s have dis- appeared. China has stopped expanding its irrigated area since the begin- ning of the 1980s. Water shortage is at its worst north of the Huai River (roughly, in a line due west along the mouth of the Yangtze River; see Map 2.5), where 65 percent of China’s cultivated land has access to only 17 per- cent of the country’s water, and there is considerable annual variation in

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precipitation. The water table in northern China is currently estimated to be falling a meter a year (Qiu, 2010). Some cities have sunk as the earth set- tles to adjust to this loss of water and the construction of large buildings. For example, about 1,000 square kilometers of land in Shanghai (Map 2.3) has subsidized since 1921; Tianjin has seen subsidence problems since the 1960s; and other cities such as Suzhou, Changzhou, Taiyuan, and Xi’an have been affected (Yi et al., 2011). Although rising sea levels, increased erosion, and geological movements of the earth’s crust can be responsible for this condition, the lowering of the water table is a key factor.

The water supply problem is most acute around big cities in northern China, where precipitation levels are lower and coal consumption and production are much higher than in the south (Wong, 2016a). It is said that two-thirds of China’s official cities are water short and about one- sixth of them suffer from severe shortages (Cheng, Hu, and Zhao, 2009:241). The Yellow River had stopped flowing virtually every year from 1985, and dried up for seven months in 1998, resulting in the August 2002 announcement of a ten-year project to tackle environmental prob- lems. Flow rate has improved recently (International Water Centre, 2012). Whether flow shortages are avoided or not, projects to move water north, one via the Grand Canal and a second, central route from the Three Gorges (Sanxia) Dam, were completed in 2013 and late in 2014, respec- tively (K. Zhao, 2014). Because irrigation water is often used in an inef- ficient manner, the government has modestly increased charges in cities such as Guangzhou (Tan, 2014) and advocated dry-land farming, and water quotas assigned to industries have resulted in some savings. Water associations have also helped improve water management in rural areas. As incomes continue to increase, however, and more people move from older housing into homes with modern plumbing, domestic water con- sumption will increase. The water shortage problem has even become an international issue as China increasingly builds dams in the upper reaches of rivers that flow into other countries, causing concern in Southeast and South Asia (Tilt, 2015).

Forest Loss and Recovery All major basins now experience annual floods and drought, due in part to past forest loss. For example, during June!July 2016, flooding affected 31 million people and 73,000 buildings collapsed in southern China. The State Forestry Administration indicated in 2013 that a national survey revealed that China forest cover is equal to 21.63 percent of the country’s total area, which is roughly two-thirds of the world average (“China’s Forest Areas Cover 21.63 Pct of Land,” 2014). Illegal logging activities had been wide- spread, especially as the market economy made it easy to sell timber. China is now the largest importer of wood with about 15 percent of imports being

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illegal (Illegal Logging Portal, 2016). The natural forests that remain today have been saved largely by inaccessibility.

China aims to reach 23 percent forest coverage by 2020. There are sev- eral large projects to plant trees along the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River, around Beijing, in the north, and elsewhere (Yin and Yin, 2009:1–12). These programs have planted billions of trees, but some have voiced criticism for planting monoculture and use of water-demanding non- native species (Luoma, 2012).

In addition, the Obligatory Tree-Planting Program, adopted in 1981, re- quires all Chinese citizens above the age of eleven to plant three to five trees each year or do other relevant forestry work, although reports suggest that only a little over half the targeted population participated in the oblig- atory tree-planting programs. In the meantime, Xi Jinping and other leaders continue to undertake photo-op tree plantings (“President Xi Plants Trees, Urges Forestry Development,” 2016). Most Chinese cities, and many areas in the countryside, show the benefits of urban tree-planting programs along streets and highways.

Soil Erosion and Nutrient Loss Over one-fifth of China’s area is not suitable for plant growth. Moreover, the country has one of the most serious soil erosion problems in the world. According to the First National Water Resource Census, 31.12 percent of China’s total land area is affected by soil erosion (Ministry of Water Re- sources, 2014). Rapid soil erosion has contributed to China’s overall envi- ronmental degradation in several ways. Riverbeds, lakes, and reservoirs silt up and their hydroelectric and flood control storage capacity is reduced. The loss of good-quality topsoil reduces arable land and food production.

Some of the most severe erosion occurs in northern portions of the semiarid Loess Plateau of north central China (see Map 2.5). According to some reports, the plateau loses about a third of an inch (0.838 centimeters) of topsoil each year and about 60 percent of the land has suffered some sort of soil erosion, generally above 2,000 tons per square kilometer per year (Zheng and Wang, 2013). The Yangtze River valley in central China and Heilongjiang and eastern Inner Mongolia in the northeast are other badly affected areas. Even areas in the far south that once had little erosion—such as Yunnan, Hainan, Fujian, and Jilin—have had severe soil erosion in the past four decades.

China has made considerable efforts to stem the flow of topsoil. A mas- sive area of eroded land that has been improved since the mid-1950s has been planted with trees or terraced. In addition, tens of thousands of check dams have been built across small gullies to control erosion. Today, the focus has shifted from individual plots to entire river basins and from central to local government. The problem is the massive scale of the effort required.

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The increased erosion largely resulted from policies implemented since the 1950s that opened steep slopes, formerly forested areas, and wetlands to farming. Some of those areas that were opened up are being returned to forests and herding. However, many of the areas where such policy needs to be carried out are generally poor and remote. Still, areas such as parts of the Loess Plateau have seen over 90 percent soil retention rates through various mitigation methods such as check dams (Xu Xiang-Zhou et al., 2012).

China’s soils lack nutrients even where they are not yet degraded to a point that crops will not grow. For example, the rich yields of southern China have been obtained only through heavy labor inputs, fertilizer, and in poorer areas the widespread use of manure and composted matter. The nat- ural organic content of China’s soil averages less than 1.5 percent. Today, some peasants are beginning to practice “ecological agriculture,” combin- ing farming, animal husbandry, and forestry with local food processing and reuse of residual materials while larger conglomerates are attempting sus- tainable agriculture on an increasing scale.

In the past decade, Chinese corporations and the government have taken to buying up land overseas—mostly in Africa, South America, and to a lesser extent in Southeast Asia, Siberia, and even Ukraine—to grow crops for the Chinese market (Horta, 2014). This is seen as a cheap way to in- crease food security, but it has also led to resentment and difficulties in the countries where the land is leased.

Desertification and Salinization-Alkalinization Approximately one-quarter of China’s land is degraded by dry climate and sand or rocky desert. Despite progress in recent years, an almost continuous belt of degraded land stretches from northwest to northeast China (see Map 2.5). Desertification affects millions of people and vast areas of pasturage, cropland, and rangeland as well as railway lines, roads, and even the Great Wall (Williams, 2002; Marks, 2011). Sandstorms related to desertification cause considerable economic damage. Most notably, the government wor- ried about dust storms that affected the Beijing and Tianjin areas and in- vested considerable effort in the areas to the northwest of Beijing.

Desertification and water shortages go hand-in-hand. These glaciers have lost 8 percent of their volume in the past forty years. Annual mean temperatures have been rising in the northwest at a rate of 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit every ten years, causing glaciers there to recede nearly twice as fast between 1978 and 2004, triggering dust storms and diminishing the flow of the Yellow, Yangtze, West, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Ganges, Sal- ween, Irrawaddy, and Indus Rivers, all of which have their source in the mountains of this region. If this rate of melt continues, nearly all the gla- ciers could be gone by the end of the twenty-first century, leaving these

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rivers without a steady water source and rapidly speeding desertification. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as others, predict a much faster rate of melt than that (“Glacier Study Reveals Chill- ing Prediction,” 2004; “Tibetan Glacier Melt Leading to Sandstorms,” 2006; Collier, 2007; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007; Morton, 2011). In short, glacial melt in the Himalayas could eventually lead to a major global water conflict. That said, China’s 2014 pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 offers some hope of slowing the pace of the melt.

Although China has improved large areas of salinized-alkalinized land since 1949, problems of salinization and alkalinization remain serious due to inefficient drainage and excessive irrigation, which have increased the levels of salts in the soil. Various estimates indicate that a fifth of China’s irrigated cropland is salinized and some counties in the drier parts of north- east China have more than 20 percent of their land salinized (X. Li et al., 2007:422). Crops sensitive to salt cannot grow on this land. It appears that the total area affected by salinization is continuing to grow. Overpumping in coastal areas has also allowed saltwater to seep into the groundwater supply. The major land reclamation projects carried out during the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s destroyed many wetlands that had helped dissipate excess water during flood periods (Shapiro, 2001). This led to

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A view of one of China’s 46,298 glaciers, which are rapidly shrinking due to climate change.

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increased flooding and salinization of flooded areas. Today, more wetland areas are being filled for industrial development and housing.

Pollution Despite considerable improvement in recent years, China’s industries re- main major polluters. According to a 2007 report, 750,000 people were dying of pollution in China annually (World Bank, 2007). By 2014, 28.8 percent of the tested sections of China’s major river systems were catego- rized in the lowest two grades of water quality or below, with the Hai, Huai, Yellow, and Songhua Rivers having the worst quality; and one-quarter of China’s major lakes failed to meet China’s Grade III standard, with 12.5 percent failing to make even the lowest standard, Grade V (Government of China, 2016). These figures suggest progress in inland water improvement in recent years, but it is difficult to know the accuracy of such estimates since testing is more advanced in some parts of the country, some of the testing is done in-house, and local governments can sometimes overlook re- sults that benefit local power brokers. Finally, as has been discovered in parts of the United States, there can be little knowledge about or testing of pipes leading into homes (Economy, 2013).

Water pollution is more serious in populous eastern China than in the northeastern quarter of the country while the western area sees increasing problems as it industrializes (Larson, 2012). Millions of rural people rely on surface water, which makes them particularly vulnerable to possible pol- lution. In general, only lakes and reservoirs that provide drinking water have been protected, and even some of these have levels of ammonia nitro- gen higher than the national standards. Pollution is especially severe in small lakes near urban areas. Problems in many large lakes, such as Tai Lake, Chao Lake, and Dian Lake, appear to be spreading from smaller bod- ies of water. In 2013, the Dian Lake Metropolitan Authority near the city of Kunming began a costly diversion, pumping water from the Niulan River westward toward Dian, which has sped up water circulation in the lake by about 25 percent. Such local improvements can make worries for down- stream rural areas (Scally, 2016).

There have been some alarming cases of pollution of the coastal seas and some estuaries and bays with dead zones of coastal eutrophication in- creasing since the 1960s (Tong et al., 2015). The most poignant case was pollution of the Bo Sea off the northern China coast, which had become so serious that a fifteen-year cleaning program was launched in 2001.

Pollution from organic chemicals and heavy metals has been serious in places. Inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus generally exceed the Chinese maximum limit in coastal waters. Oil concentrations above fishery stan- dards have been found in coastal waters such as the Pearl River Delta around Guangzhou, Dalian Bay, and Jiaozhou Bay. Red tides, which refer

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to seawater discolored by certain types of marine plankton that feed on pol- lution and are fatal to many forms of marine life, continue to increase along China’s coastline and occurred seventy-three times in 2012 (Tong et al., 2015). In mid-2016, China announced that it was building the world’s first- ever floating nuclear power station to be in operation by 2019 and sug- gested that such a plant could speed “commercial development” in the con- tested South China Sea (Chang, 2016).

The groundwater around some cities has been found to contain phe- nols, cyanides, chromium, chlorides, nitrates, sulfates, and increasing de- grees of hardness. Wells have had to be shut down. In 2016, the govern- ment reported that 80.2 percent of groundwater in the country was unfit to drink (X. Chen, 2016). Moreover, polluted groundwater is difficult to treat. That said, groundwater pollution has improved in some cities, but the over- all trend indicating that the category of “excellent” and “good” groundwa- ter classification worsened each year from 2010 to 2015 (China Water Risk, 2016). It may be that improved monitoring is giving a more realistic picture of the state of groundwater rather than such rapid deterioration. Lowered water tables around some coastal cities have added to salinization of groundwater. In many cases, people have taken to drinking bottled water, but fake bottled water has undermined confidence in this source (China Water Risk, 2016).

Water pollution problems are by no means confined to urban areas. In suburban and rural areas with relatively high densities of farm animals, an increase in nitrates can be detected in the soil and water. Many small rivers have become anoxic—no longer able to sustain aquatic life. As mentioned above, many lakes are suffering from eutrophication—overloads of organic pollution. More than 80 percent of groundwater in rural areas on the popu- lated plains of north and central China is estimated to be polluted (Buckley and Piao, 2016).

Although China has undertaken increased efforts to improve soils in a wide range of environments, soil pollution has negated much of this initia- tive. In 2016, a survey by the Ministries of Environmental Protection and Land and Resources stated that about 16.1 percent of lands surveyed were polluted by heavy metals including cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury, and 19.4 percent exceeded national standards with the situation particularly severe in central and southwestern China (“Battle to Clean China’s Soil an Uphill Struggle,” 2016). The levels of remediation of polluted soil being undertaken at contaminated industrial sites are inadequate and there is a need to increase efforts (Y. Yao, 2016).

Increased and improper applications of chemical fertilizers, coupled with growing livestock production, have also led to degradation of soil quality in rural areas (Meng Yang, 2012). China’s fertilizer usage is higher than the world average and rose to a record high in 2014 according to Food

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and Agriculture Organization data (Food and Agriculture Organization 2017).

Pesticide use remains heavy and excessive in some areas, though there is some evidence that in some places pesticides are underused (Zhang et al., 2016). Despite the growth of a pesticide monitoring system, lack of oversight and rapid growth have led to unscrupulous entrepreneurs selling foods processed with cheap substitutes and additives, many of which are poisonous.

Biogas appears to be a good (but minor) solution to both the solid waste and the energy shortage problems in rural China, which goes through cycles of promotion and relative abandonment. Biogas is methane produced by the decomposition of organic matter. The gas can be generated in reac- tors into which crop waste, animal and human excrement, and a fermenting agent are placed. The residual sludge from this process is organic and makes an excellent fertilizer.

At its height in 1978, the Chinese said there were 7 million biogas small-scale reactors in use, mostly in southern China. The transformation to family farming generally hurt the production of biogas since the communes provided a larger-scale operation for reactors and the labor force needed to maintain them. The Chinese government is giving subsidies to farmers to build larger-scale biogas reactors to control stock farm pollution in part be- cause of greenhouse gas concerns, although some reports show a low rate of digester use and the residue water from the process can still be polluting (Xia, 2013). Chinese companies now export biogas digesters to other coun- tries and have been looking into using biogas within the vehicle fuel mix. Another solution to emerge on the scene in recent years is shale gas, which China is beginning to pursue in Sichuan, Liaoning, and other areas (K. Liu and Turner, 2011). It now is the second-largest producer in the world after the United States (Cutler and Schwartz, 2014). However, there are ques- tions about water usage and pollution in connection with this new gas ex- traction method that suggest it might not be the best solution for a water- short country such as China. Yet another area of expansion is in biofuels and, most notably for China, “second-generation biofuels,” which are oils made from agricultural wastes instead of agricultural food products. Bioethanol and biodiesel are expected to grow in use, with all automotive gasoline to be made from biofuel and nonfossil energy accounting for 15 percent of total energy use by 2020 (Wang Xiaotian, 2011; USDA, 2013).

China creates about 300 million tons of waste a year (J. Li, 2015). This rapid growth has been fueled by rapid urbanization, industrialization, and consumerism, with recycling not keeping pace and waste disposal problems affecting all. There remains a tendency toward more wet trash in Chinese cities, which generates a greater proportion of methane than in the United States or Western Europe and is harder to incinerate. Around mining sites in rural areas, tailings of milled ore residues create reservoirs of polluted

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water. A considerable proportion of the waste released by industry is dumped directly into rivers and streams, although new regulations are being planned to require the mining sector to treat more than 85 percent of its wastewater (Stanway, 2016).

Although China has moved from solid fuels to gas, to a considerable degree (Carrington, 2016), especially in urban areas, this is offset by the growth of city populations and rural development such that the refuse prob- lem continues to grow. To increase natural gas supply to keep up with rapid demand, China is importing considerable amounts both by pipeline and as liquefied natural gas. China imported 53 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2015, and the government estimates that it will reach 12 percent of China’s energy mix by 2020 and the country will be importing 270 billion cubic meters by 2030 (Collins and Erickson, 2010; Cutler and Schwartz, 2014; Slav, 2016). China imported its first shipment of liquefied natural gas from the forty-eight coterminous United States in 2016 through the Panama Canal (Hsu, 2016). Yet gas plays a relatively small role in China’s energy mix. It is also expanding coalbed methane production and is experimenting with coalbed methane liquification.

Most urban refuse is removed by truck or boat to farms or dumping sites at ever-increasing distances from city centers, and most often it is poorer people at the periphery of these cities who suffer. Since 2009, there has been a rise in protests related to excess dumping around various cities in China (Kao, 2011). Research into how to bury trash in lined landfills began only in 1986, and the first modern incineration plant was built in Shenzhen in 1987. China began to set up toxic waste storage sites during the 1990s and the number of brownfield sites is increasing, with some dat- ing from the 1950s and penetrating the soil up to 10 meters in depth (J. Xie and Li, 2010:3).

An initial nuclear power station became operational at Qinshan in Zhejiang province during 1991. By mid-2016, thirty-five nuclear plants were in operation with a further twenty under construction. So far, the Chinese say that monitoring at these power plants has indicated no per- ceivable impacts on the surrounding environment. Nuclear power as of 2016 accounted for only 3 percent of China’s power supply, compared to 18.8 percent in the United Kingdom, 19.5 percent in the United States, 0.5 percent in Japan, and 76.3 percent in France. Although China’s plans to build new plants is slowing, it is still highly likely that the amount of energy produced from nuclear fuel will increase significantly during the next decade.

Coal-fired power stations are a problem that China is addressing, al-