Nick Butler: On Mar. 11, Pakistan inaugurated its most recent and largest civil nuclear power project with the opening of the 1.1-gigawatt plant in Karachi, doubling the capacity of Pakistan’s four existing nuclear facilities. A second similar unit is due to come online in the coming months. The event marked a significant step for Pakistan which needs additional capacity from all sources to bolster its existing inadequate power supplies. But even more important was the fact that the plant was built and will be operated by the state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC), one of the companies leading Beijing’s drive to join the very short list of countries with the capability to build and operate civil nuclear power projects around the world. The development of China’s nuclear industry over the last decade has been remarkable. With over 30 new reactors commissioned and another 16 under construction, China is now the main source of growth for nuclear power across the world. China’s objective is to create a closed cycle, self-reliant nuclear industry within China from the processing of uranium to produce fuel for the reactors through to construction and management of the operating plants. This is being achieved through the adaptation of international technology, in particular from Westinghouse into new Chinese designed reactors. In the process, the Chinese nuclear industry will reduce or eliminate the role of the foreign companies whose capabilities established the first wave of development. The other part of the Chinese strategy is to create an export industry, with the plan focused on a range of countries lacking resources of their own and, in most cases, also lacking the technical skills to develop their own indigenous nuclear skills. The leading Chinese nuclear company, the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), formerly the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, joined the French state company Electricite de France (EDF) in the U.K. in funding a third of the Hinkley Point project. Their aim was to secure the opportunity to go on to build, own and operate a Chinese reactor in Britain, beginning with a new plant at Bradwell in Essex. China, by pursuing its industrial aspirations, is creating a set of relationships and alliances, making full use of the fact that power supplies are crucial for the day-to-day operations of economic life. In the modern world, this is the way in which empires are built.
Nikkei Asian Review 9th May 2021 read more »