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China’s grandiose plans for nuclear build and export of reactors.

Along with the potential for geopolitical fallout, potential partners have other concerns. China hasn’t signed on to any of several international treaties that set standards for sharing liability in the event of accidents. It also hasn’t offered to take back spent fuel, an added disadvantage when competing with Russia, which does……………

China’s Climate Goals Hinge on a $440 Billion Nuclear Buildout. China is planning at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35. Bloomberg, By Dan Murtaugh and Krystal Chia, 3 November 2021, Nuclear power once seemed like the world’s best hope for a carbon-neutral future. After decades of cost-overruns, public protests and disasters elsewhere, China has emerged as the world’s last great believer, with plans to generate an eye-popping amount of nuclear energy, quickly and at relatively low cost. ……………..

China also expects its domestic projects to persuade potential overseas buyers. In 2019, the former chairman of China National Nuclear Corp. said China could build 30 overseas reactors that could earn Chinese firms $145 billion by 2030 through its Belt and Road Initiative.

Its most eager customer has been Pakistan which, like China, shares a sometimes violently contested border with India. China’s built five nuclear reactors there since 1993, including one that came online this year and another expected to be completed next year.

Other countries have been more hesitant. Romania last year canceled a deal for two reactors with CGN and opted to work with the U.S. instead. A 2015 agreement with Argentina has been stalled by economic upheaval and changes in the country’s leadership. Memorandums of understanding to build reactors with countries including Kenya and Egypt have yet to develop into anything concrete.

Along with the potential for geopolitical fallout, potential partners have other concerns. China hasn’t signed on to any of several international treaties that set standards for sharing liability in the event of accidents. It also hasn’t offered to take back spent fuel, an added disadvantage when competing with Russia, which does……………

Prior to the meltdown at Fukushima, China’s nuclear goals were even bigger. Within a week of the tsunami that triggered a meltdown at the Japanese atomic plant, the Chinese government put a moratorium on new projects and began a deep safety review of its entire program. By 2014, it decided against building any more reactors that required active safety measures, like the one at Fukushima did. It paused approvals again for several years until it was satisfied with its new technology.

Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island: Each new disaster underscores the most obvious risk in nuclear energy. Plants house incredibly dangerous radioactive material — even after 10 years of cooling, spent fuel can release twenty times the fatal dose of radiation in one hour. And in the event of a leak or an explosion, the potential for immediate and long-term damage is enormous. In Chernobyl, 350,000 people had to be evacuated after an explosion shot radioactive material into the atmosphere, and dozens of workers died of radiation poisoning within weeks. More than 30 years later, there are still reports of dangerously high levels of radiation in locally produced milk and grain. ……….

public support for nuclear power has waned to the point that new investment is politically untenable in most democracies. At COP26, applications by the International Atomic Energy Agency and industry advocates to set up shop at a more public and visible area were rejected. Japan’s efforts to restart its fleet are mired in court actions and public opposition, Germany will take the last of its reactors offline next year, and France has pledged to cut its reliance on nuclear energy from 70% to 50% by 2035.

Beijing’s own record was largely spotless until June, when reports emerged of an issue at the French-designed plant in Taishan. Any report of a problem at a nuclear plant is alarming, let alone one at a facility within 100 miles of both Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

The incident underscored the potential problem with big nuclear projects, and how they can be made worse by Chinese firms’ typical lack of transparency or public accountability. While media reports and rumors swirled about a possible problem at the plant, CGN insisted everything was fine. Its partner, the French utility EDF, wasn’t so sure, and eventually took its case to the public as a way to push for more information, at one point alerting the U.S. government.

It took weeks before Chinese officials clarified that the problem involved a few damaged fuel rods, which is common and in this case, experts agreed, unthreatening. The plant was eventually shut for maintenance, which EDF said would have happened as a matter of course in France.

While the incident ended up being largely uneventful, it widened the already gaping trust gap between China and the global marketplace for nuclear technology. China’s business practices are often opaque and sometimes downright hostile to the world’s other big emitters. The U.S., India and others are unlikely to build critical infrastructure around Chinese technology, even if it does prove safe and cost-effective.

………. In 2016, China’s CGN invested in three U.K. reactor developments, part of an effort to upgrade an aging nuclear fleet. Now, even as the country confronts a potentially crippling energy crisis this winter, government officials are trying to minimize CGN’s involvement in one of the projects and buy out its stake in the other two.

Crisis or no, it’s hard to see the country move actively toward more nuclear now, given the country’s fraught relationship with China, said Michal Meidan, director of the China Energy Research Programme at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “The lack of transparency and concerns about working relationships have become deeper,” she said. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-11-02/china-climate-goals-hinge-on-440-billion-nuclear-power-plan-to-rival-u-s

November 4, 2021 - Posted by | China, marketing, politics

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