Asia's Nuclear Energy Growth

(Updated July 2015)

  • Asia is the main region in the world where electricity generating capacity and specifically nuclear power is growing significantly.
  • In East through to South Asia there are 123 operable nuclear power reactors, 41 under construction and firm plans to build a further 92. Many more are proposed.
  • The greatest growth in nuclear generation is expected in China, South Korea and India.

In contrast with North America and most of Western Europe where growth in electricity generating capacity and particularly nuclear power levelled out for many years, a number of countries in East and South Asia are planning and building new nuclear power reactors to meet their increasing demands for electricity.

Through to 2010 projected new generating capacity in this region involved the addition of some 38 GWe per year, and from 2014 to 2025 it is expected to be 1400 GWe, over 120 GWe per year, very little of this being to replace retired plants. This is about 46% of the world's new capacity in that period – under construction and planned (current world capacity is about 6200 GWe, of which 380 GWe is nuclear). Much of this growth will be in China, Japan, India and Korea. The nuclear share of this to 2020 is expected to be considerable in three of those countries, especially if environmental constraints limit fossil fuel expansion.

Looking more narrowly at Southeast Asia (excluding the above four countries), a 2013 World Energy Outlook Special Report from the OECD/IEA said:

Nuclear power has a limited role in Southeast Asia over the Outlook period. This reflects the complexities of developing a nuclear power programme and the slow progress to date of most countries that have included nuclear in their long-term plans. Vietnam is the most active and is currently undertaking site preparation, work force training and the creation of a legal framework. Moreover, Vietnam has signed a co-operative agreement (that includes financing) with Russia to build its first nuclear power plant, with construction expected to begin in late 2014 and nuclear to enter the power mix before 2025. Thailand includes nuclear power in its Power Development Plan from 2026. While these plans could face public opposition, the country has very limited indigenous energy resources, which is expected to be a key driver behind its development. We project Thailand to start producing electricity from nuclear power plants before 2030.

There are currently 123 nuclear power reactors operable in five of those countries of the region plus Taiwan – total of more than 109 GWe, 41 units under construction (with several more due to start construction in 2010), firm plans in place to build 92 more, and serious proposals for many more.

In addition, there are about 56 research reactors in fourteen countries of the region. The only major Pacific Rim countries without any kind of research reactor are Singapore and New Zealand.


43 units (40 GWe) operable (though many of these shut down temporarily), 3 under construction, 9 planned (total 13 GWe), also 14 research reactors.

Japan was generating up to 30% of its electricity from nuclear power up to 2011. By 2017, nuclear contribution was expected to increase to 41%, and longer-term plans were to double nuclear capacity (to 90 GWe) and nuclear share by 2050. However, following the Fukushima accident in March 2011, these plans are scaled back, to nuclear providing 20-22% of electricity.

The new reactors most recently started up include third generation advanced reactors, with improved safety systems. The first of these was connected to the grid in 1996.

Japan is committed to reprocessing its used fuel to recover uranium and plutonium for re-use in electricity production, both as mixed-oxide fuel in conventional reactors, and also in fast neutron reactors.

Japan has a high temperature test reactor which has reached 950°C, high enough to enable thermochemical production of hydrogen. It expects to use some 20 GW of nuclear heat for hydrogen production by 2050, with the first commercial plant coming on line in 2025.


26 units in operation (23.1 GWe), 24 under construction (26.3 GWe), 44 planned (51 GWe), more proposed; also 16 research reactors.

China is moving ahead rapidly in building new nuclear power plants, many of them conspicuously on time and on budget. Some under construction are leading new-generation western designs.

Chinese electricity demand has been growing at more than 8% per year. The electricity demand is strongest in the Guangdong province adjacent to Hong Kong. National plans call for some 58 GWe nuclear by 2021, requiring an average of 9700 MWe per year to be added. The Chinese industry projects 150 GWe nuclear by 2030.

China has built a small advanced high-temperature gas-cooled demonstration reactor (HTR) with pebble bed fuel, which started up in 2000. A commercial prototype HTR based on it is under construction, the most advanced HTR project in the world. China also leads research on molten salt reactors.

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

24 units in operation (21.7 GWe), 4 under construction (5.6 GWe), 8 planned (11.6 GWe), also 2 research reactors.

South Korea meets 30% of its electricity needs from nuclear power, and this is increasing.

The national plan is to expand to 36 nuclear power reactors by 2030, including advanced reactor designs, and achieve about 40% nuclear supply. Demand for electricity in South Korea is increasing about 2.5% per year.

In collaboration with US companies, Korea developed the 1000 MWe OPR-1000 nuclear reactor which is 95% locally-made, and may be exported to Indonesia and Vietnam. The newer AP1400 model is based on it, and four are being built in United Arab Emirates in a $20 billion deal, having been sold against strong competition.

South Korea has a US$ 1 billion R&D and demonstration program aiming to produce commercial hydrogen using nuclear heat about 2020.

North Korea

2 units partially built but subject to political delays, also 1 research reactor.

North Korea was moving towards commissioning one small power reactor, but concern focussed on attempts to develop illicit weapons capability caused this to be halted.

The USA and South Korea offered assistance in substituting two reactors which would not produce weapons-grade plutonium, and agreement for these was signed late in 1995. They are (South) Korean Standard Nuclear Power Plant type and construction of the first was about one third complete when construction was abandoned.


21 units in operation (5.3 GWe), 6 under construction, 22 planned, 35 proposed; also 4 research reactors.

India has achieved independence in its nuclear fuel cycle. Nuclear power currently supplies less than 4% of electricity in India from 21 reactors. There are six units under construction, including a second large Russian reactor, and four PHWRs. A further 22 reactors are planned beyond that, including four more Russian units and two modern French ones. Plans are for 15 GWe by 2020.

India is a pioneer in developing the thorium fuel cycle, and has several advanced facilities related to this. A 500 MWe fast reactor is due to start up in 2015.


3 reactors in operation, 2 under construction, 2 planned, also 1 research reactor.

Pakistan generates almost 5% of its electricity by nuclear, its third power reactor started up in 2011, and two more – supplied by China – are under construction. Two larger ones are planned near Karachi.

The government plans for 8.9 GWe of nuclear capacity at ten sites by 2030.


2 units planned, 1 research reactor

In Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission plans to build two 1000 MWe Russian nuclear reactors by 2021, with Russian finance. It has one operating research reactor.


1 reactor planned, 4 proposed, 3 research reactors.

Demand for electricity in Indonesia has been growing rapidly, and this promoted development of several independent power projects.

The government focus has changed from building large units for the Java-Bali grid to building an initial small reactor near Jakarta.


4 reactors planned, 6 proposed, 1 research reactor.

In Vietnam, two Russian reactors total 2000 MWe are planned at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province to come into operation from by 2020, followed by another 2000 MWe using Japanese technology at Vinh Hai in the same province. These plants would be followed by a further 6000 MWe by 2030, subsequently increased to having a total of 15,000 MWe by 2030. In January 2015 the AEA announced a further delay, giving construction start about 2019.

Demand is growing rapidly and is expected to reach about 320 TWh/yr in 2020 – from 123 TWh in 2012. Over one-third of its power comes from hydro, one-third from gas and the rest from coal or imported from China. It has a research reactor at Da Lat, operated with Russian assistance.


5 reactors proposed, 1 research reactor.

Interest by Thailand in nuclear power has revived due to a forecast growth in electricity demand of 7 per cent per year for the next 20 years. About 70% of electricity is from natural gas. Capacity requirements in 2016 are forecast at 48 GWe.

In the Thailand Power Development Plan 2010-30, which was approved in 2010, there is 5000 MWe of nuclear capacity envisaged, with 1000 MWe units starting up over 2020-28. The first power plant will be internally financed.

Thailand has had an operating research reactor since 1977 and a larger one is under construction but apparently halted.


1 reactor proposed, 1 research reactor.

The Philippines has one power reactor completed in 1984 but it never operated due to concerns about bribery and safety deficiencies. In 2007 the government set up a project to study the development of nuclear energy, in the context of an overall energy plan for the country, to reduce dependence on imported oil and coal. In 2008 an IAEA mission commissioned by the government advised that the nuclear plant could be refurbished and economically and safely be operated for 30 years.

As well as this, the government was considering two further 1000 MWe Korean Standard Nuclear Plant units, using equipment from the aborted North Korean KEDO project.


2 proposed, 1 research reactor.

In 2008 the government announced that it had no option but to commission nuclear power due to high fossil fuel prices, and set 2023 as target date. Early in 2010 the government said it had budgeted $7 billion funds for this, and sites are being investigated.

Malaysia wants a proven type of 1000 MWe-class reactor which is already deployed. Plans are to be presented to the government in 2015. In July 2014 the minister responsible for MNPC announced a feasibility study including ‘public acceptance’ on building a nuclear power plant to operate from about 2024, with 3-4 reactors providing 10-15% of electricity by 2030.

See also: country papers and Emerging Nuclear Countries paper.

Nuclear Power in Asia, and Involvement with the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

  Power Reactors operable or in Operation Power Reactors Under Construction Power Reactors Planned Research Reactors Other Stages of the Fuel Cycle
Australia       1 UM
Bangladesh     2 1  
China 26 24 44 16 UM, C, E, FF
India 21 6 22 4 UM, FF, R, WM
Indonesia     1 3 FF
Japan 43 3 9 14 C, E, FF, R, WM
S. Korea 24 4 8 2 C, FF
N.Korea     0 1 C?,FF?,R
Malaysia     0 1  
Pakistan 3 2 2 1 UM, E, FF
Philippines     0 1  
Thailand     0 1+1  
Vietnam     4 1  
** Total 123 41 93 49*    

* 48 research reactors operable, 1 under construction

** The total includes six reactors in operation, plus two under construction, on Taiwan. It also has one research reactor. Taiwan has no other stages of the fuel cycle.

Key: UM Uranium Mining, C Conversion, E Enrichment, FF Fuel Fabrication, R Reprocessing, WM Waste Management facilities for used fuel away from reactors.

WNA Reactor table, WNA country papers
OECD/IEA World Energy Outlook