Nuclear power capacity is growing rapidly in China and is expected to reach 58 GW by 2020. However, it is not clear at present if the country can meet this increasing demand for uranium. We present a comprehensive uranium flow analysis in China that covers a ten-year period from 2003 to 2012 with the aim of identifying near-future fuel demand to 2020. The findings suggest that from 2003 to 2012, 19 126 t of natural uranium were consumed, which generated 3811 t of spent fuel. Of this, only 33–58 % of natural uranium was sourced domestically, the rest of which was imported. By 2020, the uranium consumption is estimated to reach 14 426 t yr−1, around three quarters of the amount consumed over the whole ten-year period considered here. Based on the current increase in demand, the domestic natural uranium could run out by 2027 if the country relies solely on its own uranium deposits known currently. Our findings also show that China would need to expand its spent-fuel reprocessing program, expected to start in 2025, by 3–4 times as the planned capacity is insufficient given the current growth of nuclear power.