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Will China export nuclear reactors to Pakistan?

April 20, 2013 20:56 IST

China has declared that it has acquired the first foreign contract for its self-developed 1000 MW nuclear reactor, hinting that it could be exported to Pakistan, overriding the concerns of both United States and India.

ACP1000, a third-generation nuclear reactor developed independently by China National Nuclear Corporation, has secured its first foreign contract, the company said on Friday.

The reactor passed a review by an expert panel in Beijing and construction will begin at the foreign site after a domestic ACP1000 reactor work begins at the end of this year, CNNC vice-president Lyu Huaxiang told state-run China Daily.

However, he did not disclose the name of the country where it will be built.

China has already aided and assisted Pakistan in constructing four power plants at Chashma and is committed to building a heavy reactor there.

In March, Foreign Ministr Hong Lei tacitly confirmed reports of signing an agreement with Pakistan to build a 1000 MW nuclear power plant and defended the deal, saying that it conformed to safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

He was reacting to US media reports -- that China and Pakistan have entered a secret agreement to build a 1000 MW reactor.

The Washington Free Beacon portal quoted unnamed State Department officials as saying that the Chinese move would be in violation of its promise to the 47-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.

China, which joined the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in 2005, had agreed not to sell additional reactors to Pakistan beyond the two reactors sold earlier.

"I want to point out that relevant cooperation between China and Pakistan does not violate relevant norms of the NSG," Hong said, adding that in recent years, the two countries have carried out some cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear cooperation.

China argues that the new 1000 MW plant was "grandfathered" by a previous agreement that led to the construction and operation of earlier nuclear power plants at Chashma.

Sun Qin, chairman of CNNC, said in March that the first domestic construction site for the ACP1000 has been finalised at Fuqing in Fujian province.

He also revealed that the technology was ready for export to Asian and South American countries.

According to Lyu, a delegation of nuclear power officials from Argentina will meet CNNC bosses or negotiations on potential cooperation.

Argentina might begin international bidding for its nuclear reactor within this year if its investigation of the ACP1000 goes well.

"Our domestic plant will be a reference for foreign customers," Lyu said.

The ACP1000 reactor is equipped with an extra safety mechanism in case of an accident and has self-developed fuel technology, he said.

Lyu said CNNC is also looking to the European and North American markets, but exports to these regions first have to obtain approval from local authorities.

"We have submitted an application to the International Atomic Energy Association for a review of the ACP1000, which will help us get the permits to export to Europe and North America," he said.

The ACP1000 is not the only third-generation nuclear reactor to be developed by a Chinese company.

Others include the CAP 1400 developed by the State Nuclear Power Technology Co on the basis of Westinghouse Co's AP1000.

"But the ACP1000 is the only one with entirely independent intellectual property rights, and is the only one able to be independently exported," Lyu said.

K J M Varma In Beijing
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