Obstacles lie in path of China nuclear exports; nation’s companies must seize every opportunity, expert advises

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/31 22:53:39

Hinkley Point B nuclear power station, operated by EDF, in the UK. File photo: CFP

Given the complications of building a nuclear power plant in a foreign country, China's nuclear exports have just gotten started and it is understandable that Chinese companies will face obstacles in participating in such projects, an expert said on Sunday.

"More importantly, Chinese nuclear power companies need to seize every opportunity and try their best to participate in the construction of overseas nuclear power plants so as to gain experience, win trust and obtain market share," Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The comment came on the heels of a fresh delay by the British government to the Hinkley Point C project, the country's first civilian nuclear power plant in more than a decade.

Shortly after the board of EDF, the ­project's French developer, approved the project, UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said in a statement on Thursday that the government will review the project once more, according to the Financial Times.

"The government will now consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in the early autumn," Clark said.

The delay was mainly due to the new Prime Minister Theresa May's concern over the ­involvement of China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN), the world's fifth-largest nuclear power company in terms of operating capacity, in the project, according to The Telegraph on Friday.

On Friday, CGN said on its official Sina Weibo account that: "We understand and respect that in view of the importance of Hinkley Point C to the UK's future energy security, the new government needs time to know about the project. CGN is ready to continue pushing forward the project, along with the strategic partner EDF, to provide the UK with safe, reliable and sustainable energy supply."

CGN did not respond to a request for comment from the Global Times as of press time.

The Hinkley Point C project has been delayed several times since an agreement was reached between EDF and CGN in October 2015. Under the deal, CGN will take a 33.5 percent stake in the project by investing 6 billion pounds ($7.94 billion), or one-third of the total.

"It is not easy for China to participate in a nuclear power project in a Western country. Any concern or objection from any party could lead to reviews and delays," Lin said. "Especially when the project involves Chinese investment, that's even more sensitive and to some it's suspicious."

Lin also pointed out that CGN is just an investor in the Hinkley project, which won't use China's nuclear technologies.

Nonetheless, it's significant for China's nuclear power industry since it's the first nuclear power project in the West in which a Chinese company will participate.

China has been seeking to export its nuclear power technologies and making efforts to promote its latest Hualong One reactor design.

But Lin noted China's "third-generation" nuclear power technologies haven't won global recognition because the Hualong One reactor is still new and there haven't been any demonstration projects in China or abroad.

According to media reports, Hualong One reactors are being built in China and Pakistan, and CGN is also working to seek UK approval for the Hualong One reactor to be built at Bradwell in Essex.

Chinese companies such as CGN face a lot of obstacles in exports market such as security concerns and a lack of recognized technology, so the process will be a struggle initially, Lin concluded. It will just take time.

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