Beijing Emphasizes Development of Nuclear Energy

Publication: China Brief Volume: 7 Issue: 11

Coinciding with a new report from China’s State Environmental Protection Administration stating that environmental conditions in the country have continued to deteriorate during the past year, the Chinese government has begun an initiative to promote clean energy technologies, with alternatives such as nuclear power. Eager to wean itself off its heavy dependence on oil and coal, the latter of which provides 70 percent of China’s energy needs, the State Council has placed a priority on procuring foreign nuclear power technologies as well as inventing its own (People’s Daily, May 28). Reflecting this new policy, on May 22, the Chinese government launched the State Nuclear Power Technology Co., which has been tasked with obtaining contracts for third-generation nuclear power technology transfers from foreign countries as well as developing advanced indigenous reactor technologies (Xinhua, May 22). Wang Binghua, the former general manager of the state-owned China Power Investment Corporation and deputy general manager of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), has been appointed as the chairman of the company. Late last year, CNNC signed a $5-8 billion contract with Westinghouse Electric Co. to purchase four 1,000-megawatt third-generation reactors (Reuters, December 16, 2006). Two of the reactors are to be installed in Sanmen City, Zhejiang Province, with the other two in Haiyang City, Shandong Province. China currently operates 11 nuclear reactors, all of which are based on second-generation reactor designs. Three of them are based on domestic Chinese technologies, four based on French designs, two based on Russian designs and two based on Canadian technologies. Until Chinese firms are capable of producing indigenously designed third-generation nuclear reactors, it is likely that the government will continue to look abroad and import foreign nuclear reactor technologies.