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Can China Sell One GW Nuclear Power Reactor to Pakistan Without French & NSG Approval?

According to the Reuters news agency, Mr.Qiu Jiangang, Vice-President of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), told a conference at Beijing on September 20,2010, that China and Pakistan had signed contracts under which two more nuclear power stations of 300 MWs each (Chashma III and Chashma IV) would be set up by the CNNC at Chashma in Pakistan’s Punjab.These would be similar to Chinese-constructed Chashma I, which is already operating, and Chashma II which is under construction. This was already known.

2.What was new in his statement was his disclosure that the CNNC was holding talks with the Pakistani authorities for the supply of a bigger nuclear power station of one gigawatt capacity. He did not indicate when the talks started, at what stage are the talks presently and where it is proposed to set up the new bigger power station if the talks end in an agreement.

3.The Reuters news agency has quoted the CNNC as stating as follows in a recent article carried by the journal “Seeking Truth”,published by the Communist Party of China: “We must rely on the Pakistan Chashma nuclear power project to improve our ability to contract for nuclear power projects abroad, and to open up the foreign market for nuclear energy.”

4. The Chashma technology is Chinese. China has, therefore, the right to export it, but in the case of Pakistan, it needs the clearance of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), since Pakistan is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Beijing has been trying to circumvent the need for prior clearance by the NSG by projecting Chashma III and IV as coming under the purview of the original agreement on Chashma I ( the grand-father provision ). Its contention has not yet been accepted by some NSG member-countries, including the US. Despite this, Beijing has hinted on more than one occasion that it will go ahead with the supply of Chashma III and IV even without the approval of the NSG.

5. However, China’s one gigawatt technology is not indigenous. China bought it from Areva, a French company formed by the merger of Frematome, Cogema and Technicatome.In November 2007, AREVA agreed to a €8 billion deal with the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group to supply them with two EPRs (European Pressurised Reactor) in Taishan, Guangdong. Under the terms of the agreement, AREVA will also help operate the plant, including the reprocessing of the spent fuel.

6. Based on the EPR technology of French origin,the Chinese claim to have developed a technology of their own called CPR–1000 (Chinese Pressurised Reactor). According to the magazine “Nuclear Engineering International, “the CPR-1000 is a Generation II, 1080MW pressurized water reactor, based on French- three-loop design. Over 60 design improvements have been made by the Chinese, including modifications to the control room, fuel, and the introduction of half speed turbo generators (supplied by Alstom). However, Areva retains intellectual property rights for the CPR-1000, which constrains overseas sales. To sell abroad the Chinese would need agreement from Areva on a case-by-case basis, which seems unlikely as the CPR-1000 could be in competition with the Areva/MHI Atmea 1 design.”

7. It is understood Pakistan has been trying to get from the Chinese the CPR–1000 reactor.This would require two approvals—- from the Areva of France which sold the technology to the Chinese while retaining the intellectual property rights and the NSG. Even if one accepts the plausibility that Chashma III and IV could be grand-fathered under the original agreement relating to Chashma I, the grand-father clause cannot apply to the CPR–1000 reactor, which will have three times the capacity of Chashma I and whose technology was acquired by the Chinese three years after China joined the NSG after accepting its safeguards against sales to non-signatories of the NPT.

8. The matter needs to be strongly taken up by the Government of India with the French and the NSG members.

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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