Visitors look at a model reactor at the China National Nuclear Corp stand during a nuclear industry exhibition in Beijing on April 6. Photo: IC
Nuclear technology could join the list of China-made goods with high-tech features, such as high-speed rail, and could become a new facet of the country's export portfolio with nuclear power projects in Pakistan serving as a touchstone and leading to more opportunities in the global market, experts said on Monday.
Nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan has made great strides in recent years under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the "One Belt, One Road" initiative.
In October, the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3 was connected to Pakistan's grid. The complex was built by State-owned China National Nuclear Corp.
In addition to the four reactors at Chashma, another nuclear power plant is also being built in Karachi, in southern Pakistan. The Hualong One third-generation nuclear technology, developed by China, is being installed at the plant in Karachi.
Pakistan's growth has been hindered by power shortages and nuclear technology offers the country a clean and affordable option in power supply, said Han Xiaoping, chief analyst at the energy-focused website China5e.
The construction of a nuclear power plant also demands huge input in related infrastructure, which could boost the local economy, noted Han.
There is great potential for China's nuclear technology in terms of international cooperation, Han told the Global Times on Monday, because it has a good safety record both domestically and abroad.
"Pakistan is indubitably an energy deficit country with traditional reliance on hydro power generation of which the capacity has gone down over the years. Every day there is an electricity shortage of some 4,000 megawatts," Ejaz Hussain, head of the department of social sciences at Iqra University Islamabad and currently a visiting fellow at University of California, Berkeley, told the Global Times Monday.
Hussain said also under the terms of the CPEC, some Chinese companies are investing in thermal energy projects in Pakistan. "Chinese companies are doing this to help Pakistan meet its energy needs as well as make money from thermal and nuclear technology that has been discouraged in industrialized Europe and the US."
"The construction of a Hualong One nuclear unit at Karachi has set a great example for future export efforts of China's third-generation nuclear technology," Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Monday.
It is very likely there will be more use of China's nuclear technology in developed economies as well as those along the Belt and Road route, as the technology is both safe and more affordable, compared with other third generation technologies like EPR, developed by Areva NP, Électricité de France and Siemens, and Westinghouse Electric Company's AP1000, Lin said.
Like China's bullet trains, nuclear technology is very likely to become another "name card" for China, Lin noted.
Hussain noted that China-Pakistan energy cooperation has been stable despite concerns raised by domestic humanitarian and green organizations that have called for locating such reactors to non-populated areas and shifting to renewable energy.
"Nuclear power plants, especially those near Karachi, pose a danger to the metropolitan if hit by a tsunami or any terror attack. Karachi has been attacked by terrorists in the past and is politically and security-wise unstable. What Pakistani authorities need to do is locate such nuclear plants in less populated areas and importantly go for fusion-based nuclear technology and energy," Hussain noted.
Internationally, China also has a role to play, according to Hussain.
"Both India and Pakistan are striving for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership. In my view, to stabilize hostile relations between India and Pakistan, China and the US have their work cut out for them and the two can urge the South Asian nuclear-tipped archrivals to either join the NSG together or stay away from it. Any middle way will add to strategic danger in Asia and beyond," Hussain said.