Pakistan key to Chinese nuclear
exports By Antoaneta Bezlova
BEIJING - Pakistan's growing
nuclear-energy needs and its leaders'
determination to look to China for investment and
know-how in the field are proving an important
incentive for the latter's ambitions of becoming a
global player in the nuclear-power industry.
While China itself is still in the process
of seeking foreign help to expand its nuclear
sector, government officials have made it clear
that their ultimate goal is to build an
and venture overseas.
domestically built reactors, China has already
completed a 300-megawatt nuclear power plant
in Chashma in Pakistan and is constructing another
of the same size there.
with a Chinese delegation in Islamabad late last
month, Pakistani President General Pervez
Musharraf sought more Chinese input in the sector,
reportedly requesting a series of new plants to
help his country boost its nuclear-power capacity.
Beijing aims to sign a deal in November
that will see China helping Pakistan build six
nuclear power plants with an installed capacity of
300MW each. The agreement will be inked during a
visit by top Chinese leaders to Pakistan, bringing
the South Asian country a step closer to meeting
its target of having 8,000MW of nuclear power
capacity by 2025.
Pakistan had earlier
invited the United States to set up nuclear power
plants in the country but Washington's response
has been tepid. Although Islamabad has pledged
cooperation in the US-led global fight against
terrorism, Washington has chosen to reward
Pakistan's arch-rival, India, with a deal to
supply nuclear fuel and technology.
deal with India was ratified by the US House of
Representatives in July. Despite being tailored
for the needs of the civilian industry, experts
say it could still allow India to boost its own
production of nuclear warheads.
Pakistan have fought three wars since they were
separated at independence in 1947. In 1987, Abdul
Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's
nuclear-weapons program, declared that any future
conflict could be nuclear, and in 1998 the two
neighbors declared themselves nuclear powers and
In spite of that, distrust
between the two countries over Kashmir and
terrorism has only worsened and led to an
intensified military buildup on both sides.
Neither country is a signatory to the nuclear
between Pakistan and the US suffered a setback in
2003 when it was revealed that A Q Khan had helped
Iran, Libya and North Korea develop their nuclear
programs. Khan has been under house arrest since.
The Khan episode contributed to the US
advising Pakistan to look to its petroleum-rich
western neighbor, Iran, for its energy needs. At
the same time, the US has actively discouraged
India from sourcing Iranian gas and all but
scuttled a proposed pipeline through Pakistan.
China is now eagerly stepping in, hoping
to create markets for its own budding
nuclear-power industry. Yet it is doing so with
caution and has strengthened its nuclear-export
controls. "We will spare no efforts to fulfill our
international obligations on nuclear
non-proliferation and enhance cooperation in the
peaceful utilization of nuclear energy," Jin
Zhuanglong, deputy director of the Commission of
Science, Technology and Industry for National
Defense, told an international conference in
Beijing late last month.
unveiled ambitious plans to have 4% of its 2020
electricity needs met by nuclear power. In the
current energy mix, nuclear power accounts for
less than 2%. To more than double its share in
less than 15 years, China would need to add at
least two reactors annually, each with a capacity
This aggressive push is driven
by escalating energy shortages and ever more
pressing needs to keep greenhouse-gas emissions,
which are linked to global warming, under control.
Last March, China's State Council approved
a blueprint for the country's long-term
nuclear-industry development, which embraces the
nuclear solution as a clean energy alternative.
The document sees the expansion of nuclear energy
as the most practical option for diversifying from
heavily polluting coal-fired plants and Middle
Initially, foreign investors
were delighted at the prospect of a huge rollout
of new plants - at least 30 by 2020, anticipating
how the new expansion would significantly bolster
demand for their technology. After all, only three
of China's nuclear reactors currently in operation
were domestically designed and built. Companies
from Canada, France, Japan and Russia played an
important part in developing the other six.
But with repeated delays in the
announcement of the bidding results for four new
nuclear reactors in Zhejiang and Guangdong
provinces, foreign companies' hopes of cornering a
big piece of the action have begun to look dimmer.
The Chinese government planned to announce
its decision on choosing a winner among the three
leading bidders - Areva Group of France, the
US-based Westinghouse Electric, and Russia's
AtomStroy - at the end of 2005 but has repeatedly
extended the deadline.
As the tendering
process drags on, the China National Nuclear Corp
(CNNC), the country's major nuclear conglomerate,
has begun portraying the planned increase of
nuclear-power generation as a golden opportunity
for China's domestic industry to test and improve
its indigenous second-generation-plus reactors.
In that case, China could eventually
export its home-grown technology, CNNC officials
argue, fulfilling the country's ambitions of
becoming a global player in the nuclear-power
At an industry forum this year,
Chen Hua, a CNNC senior official, argued that the
purpose of foreign cooperation is to help China
develop its own technology to the point where its
nuclear-power industry is both self-sufficient and
internationally competitive. He called for only
two reactors to be awarded to foreign companies in
the current tendering process, with the other two
reserved for domestic companies.
Meanwhile, CNNC has aggressively pursued
its agenda of improving the existing technology
and venturing overseas. In May, it established a
new engineering-construction venture, the China
Nuclear Engineering Co, which is to take charge of
furthering China's nuclear interests overseas.
"As the newly established China Nuclear
Engineering grows, we will participate in bidding
for other projects in a wider range of foreign
countries," Li Xiaoming, a senior nuclear
scientist, was quoted by the leading newspaper
He said CNNC, which developed
the nuclear reactors in Pakistan based on its
domestically built reactor at Qinshan, Zhejiang
province, is also in talks with other nations in
Southeast Asia to build nuclear power plants.