Doubts that nuclear is worth the huge costs, and safety fears, could wipe out orders for Chinese reactors, writes Steve Thomas. China’s nuclear power industry has eyed up a big push to export its technologies as countries around the world consider low-carbon alternatives to coal. But despite an increasingly clearer field for Chinese nuclear exports – mainly because of the woes dragging down French and Russian competitors – selling reactors abroad is likely to prove to a much tougher task than had first been thought. Perhaps the biggest uncertainty is whether there will be much of a nuclear export market at all. Since 2008, reactors built in China have accounted for the majority of the world’s new reactor construction starts, and in 2015, there were only seven new construction starts, six of which were for China. While there are a large number of countries talking about buying reactors, many of which would be their first nuclear projects, the history of these types of exports suggests only a small number of these will be translated into real orders. Moreover, many countries have major concerns about relying on China for the supply of such a strategically important piece of infrastructure. In particular, their concerns centre on the quality of components, the rigour of the Chinese regulatory system, the risk of dependence on China and the potential leakage of technologies that have hugely strategic geopolitical use.
China Dialogue 10th May 2016 read more »