China making N-reactor copies to sell to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (TIP): China will be able to sidestep global nuclear commerce rules when it sells its third generation nuclear reactors to Pakistan, making its sale a win-win deal for both countries. China has reverse-engineered Westinghouse’s AP-1000 reactor to build an indigenous reactor, which, officials said, is a clever copy of the original. With Pakistani nuclear officials travelling several times this year to China as they work on a contract, the “indigenized” Chinese reactor will help Beijing overcome a key objection by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that forbids sale of nuclear reactors or components to third countries without NSG approval and without an NPT signature. The Chinese reactors in Pakistan will be under IAEA safeguards that make them safer and lesser cause for worry in India. But Indian officials are much more concerned about nuclear weapons and missiles that China is reportedly helping Pakistan with. That, senior Indian officials say, is a greater cause for concern. China has not yet tested the design of its indigenized reactor but this is the one that will be sold to Pakistan, scheduled to be installed in Karachi.

According to sources here, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has claimed it has indigenously designed and developed a thirdgeneration nuclear power reactor which they have named as the Advanced China Pressurised (ACP)- 1000. China has reportedly indigenized most of the reactor components, which will be sold to Pakistan bypassing NSG requirements, under a grandfathering clause. Reports say Beijing is planning to install the first Chinese reactor in Fujian province. China was helped in this when Westinghouse sold its first reactor to China in 2007, China insisted on transfer of technology. According to a leaked cable by the US Consul General in Shanghai, “Chinese government made it very clear that failure to transfer AP1000 technology would have been a deal-breaker, and Westinghouse would have lost the contract.” The US official quotes a Westinghouse official as saying, “Westinghouse expressed the pragmatic view that, “If people are going to reverse engineer or copy nuclear technology, Westinghouse would prefer that people copy Westinghouse technology.” The Chinese contract was the biggest ever at $8 billion.

India is negotiating the purchase of two AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse — a pre-early works agreement was signed during PM Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to the US. But it is not clear that India would be getting any technology transfer of the variety that the Chinese have received from the American company. China’s indigenization programme is aimed at being able to provide more nuclear reactors to other customers in the world. There has been little Western protest against Chinese decision to sell such reactors to Pakistan. When China does begin building nuclear reactors in Pakistan, experts reckon, Beijing will still need to import a fair number of components from other industrialized nations. This would be seriously flouting NSG rules. Indian officials say China helps the Pakistan nuclear programme in a myriad different ways. For example, China sends its nuclear experts under the IAEA umbrella to undertake safety missions in Pakistan that Western officials avoid due to security problems.

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