IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The sources of divergent practices in China's nuclear power sector


  • Chi, Cheryl S.F.
  • Chen, Ling


Unlike markets that were early developers of reactors, which are dominated by single technologies, China's nuclear power sector adopts and imports multiple technologies. Even after the Chinese government introduced a policy to develop a standardized, unified, and technologically advanced nuclear power sector in the early 2000s, different technologies continue to be imported. This study uses an institutional lens to explore the decoupling of policy intentions and implementation. The three phases of nuclear technology imports that occurred between the 1980s and 2010 are examined and compared. Data are collected from multiple sources, including the diary of a major decision-maker, news articles, project websites, a regulation database, domestic journal articles, and interviews with industry experts. Using interactive content analysis, this study identifies the multiple policy principles and goals of different domains that led to different import arrangements and interpretations of the available foreign technology. New arrangements do not replace but overlap the existing ones that are perpetuated by the actors who benefit from them. The results show that the multiplicity of China's nuclear power sector, coupled with the government's late attempts at standardization, contributes to diversified policy implementation. They provide important policy implications for the sustainable development of the sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Chi, Cheryl S.F. & Chen, Ling, 2012. "The sources of divergent practices in China's nuclear power sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 348-357.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:48:y:2012:i:c:p:348-357
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.05.036

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Locatelli, Catherine & Rossiaud, Sylvain, 2011. "A neoinstitutionalist interpretation of the changes in the Russian oil model," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 5588-5597, September.
    2. Zhou, Yun & Rengifo, Christhian & Chen, Peipei & Hinze, Jonathan, 2011. "Is China ready for its nuclear expansion?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 771-781, February.
    3. Xu, Yi-chong, 2008. "Nuclear energy in China: Contested regimes," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1197-1205.
    4. Catherine Locatelli & Sylvain Rossiaud, 2011. "A neoinstitutionalist interpretation of the changes in the Russian oil model," Post-Print halshs-00631115, HAL.
    5. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Valentine, Scott Victor, 2010. "The socio-political economy of nuclear energy in China and India," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 35(9), pages 3803-3813.
    6. Arthur, W Brian, 1989. "Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns, and Lock-In by Historical Events," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(394), pages 116-131, March.
    7. Zhou, Yun, 2010. "Why is China going nuclear?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 3755-3762, July.
    8. Unruh, Gregory C., 2000. "Understanding carbon lock-in," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 817-830, October.
    9. Radulovic, Verena, 2005. "Are new institutional economics enough? Promoting photovoltaics in India's agricultural sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(14), pages 1883-1899, September.
    10. Watanabe, Kassia & Bijman, Jos & Slingerland, Maja, 2012. "Institutional arrangements in the emerging biodiesel industry: Case studies from Minas Gerais—Brazil," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 381-389.
    11. Breukers, Sylvia & Wolsink, Maarten, 2007. "Wind power implementation in changing institutional landscapes: An international comparison," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 2737-2750, May.
    12. Zhou, Sheng & Zhang, Xiliang, 2010. "Nuclear energy development in China: A study of opportunities and challenges," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 4282-4288.
    13. Wang, Qiang, 2009. "China needing a cautious approach to nuclear power strategy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2487-2491, July.
    14. Putnam, Robert D., 1988. "Diplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(03), pages 427-460, June.
    15. Cheryl Chi & Amy Nicole Javernick-Will, 2011. "Institutional effects on project arrangement: high-speed rail projects in China and Taiwan," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(6), pages 595-611.
    16. Cowan, Robin, 1990. "Nuclear Power Reactors: A Study in Technological Lock-in," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(03), pages 541-567, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Xu, Y.C., 2014. "The struggle for safe nuclear expansion in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 21-29.

    More about this item


    Nuclear power; Technological imports; China;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:48:y:2012:i:c:p:348-357. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.