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China to set up massive nuclear plant for Pakistan

Last updated on: September 21, 2010 17:59 IST

Unruffled by global concerns, Beijing and Islamabad are in talks to build a new nuclear reactor in Pakistan of 1 gigawatt capacity, three times more powerful than existing ones, apparently without the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency or the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Qiu Jiangang, vice president of the state-run China National Nuclear Corporation, which has already built Pakistan's main nuclear facility at Chashma in Punjab province, said his company was in talks to set up another giant nuclear plant in Pakistan.

"Both sides are in discussion over the CNNC exporting a one gigawatt nuclear plant to Pakistan", Qiu told a meeting in Beijing without giving any details.

Tacitly confirming Qiu's remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson here told reporters during a briefing to direct their queries to the CNNC.

But, the ministry said Beijing had informed International Atomic Energy Agency about its plans to build two more nuclear power plants at Chashma in addition to the earlier two units.

Chinese foreign mnister's spokesperson, Jiang Yu who replied to a number of questions about China's plans to build 1 gigawatt plant said she too 'read the reports' about it and has no information about it.

"Please confirm with the relevant company," about it, she said. Qiu, the top official of the CNNC giving details about the progress of Pakistani nuclear reactors said that besides the main plant at Chashma, his company was completing a second reactor there and has contracts to build two more 300 megawatt reactors, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Qiu said, that the first reactor was operating safely and the second one was being tested and expected to start formal operations by the end of the year

The new plant of 1 gigawatt plant, which would be Pakistan's fifth and more than three times powerful than the existing ones is being proposed to be built without China notifying either the IAEA or the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

US and India have both expressed concern after China signed a deal in February to build the additional two 300-MW reactors.

Quoting US officials, 'Wall Street Journal' said, such plans required special exemption from the 46-nation NSG, which China joined in 2004 and which is supposed to regulate the global nuclear trade.

The paper said, Vann H Van Diepen, the US acting assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation had suggested before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July that the US would vote against such an exemption.

Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and there are concerns by US, Western Nations and India that Pakistan's nuclear material may fall into the hands of Al Qaeda and Taliban who are based close to the Pakistani capital.

The Chinese plans to export yet another nuclear plant to Pakistan comes as Beijing has unveiled plans to invest nearly USD 120 billion to increase nuclear power generation to 70-80 gigawatts by 2020, the 'China Daily' reported today. The paper said to fund the new spending spree CNNC would list its subsidiary CNNC Nuclear Power Co Ltd.

China has stepped up investment in nuclear power in an effort to slash its carbon emissions and reduce the nations reliability on coal for energy needs.

The daily said China which has emerged as the world's second largest economy was aiming to produce 15 per cent of its power demand from nuclear energy.

China has 11 nuclear power reactors in operation with a capacity of 9.1 gigawatt and the country aims to increase this to 70-80 gigawatts by 2020.

Though the Chinese spokesman was reluctant to come out directly on the issue, a Pakistani official implicitly confirmed it is holding talks with China to build nuclear plant.

"We have an ongoing nuclear cooperation agreement with China which is according to our respective international obligations for peaceful purposes under the IAEA safeguards," official spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters in Islamabad.

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