Nuclear, Reactors

US nuclear regulator promotes Westinghouse design for Chinese market

19 October 2004 – The top US nuclear regulator vouched for the safety of a new Westinghouse nuclear reactor – yet to be built anywhere in the world – in a sales pitch to supply China’s growing power industry.

Makers of nuclear power equipment are lobbying hard for business in China, which plans to build dozens of plants in coming years at a time when few other countries are commissioning new facilities.

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Nils Diaz said the $1.5bn (€1.2bn) AP1000 reactor made by Westinghouse Electric Co. is likely to receive regulatory approval in the next few months.

“My understanding is that China is looking for an advanced reactor that provides graded assurance of safety,” Diaz said after meeting with Chinese officials. “They’re looking, I think, for … something that is state-of-the-art, and the AP1000 is a state-of-the-art reactor.”

China has begun accepting bids to build several new reactors, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said. Whether China will buy American technology depends on “the result of the bidding as well as the requirements of the Chinese companies,” she added, without elaborating.

Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., is the only U.S.-based maker of pressurized water reactors – the design that China says it wants to pursue.

Its chief rivals for China’s business are Framatome, a subsidiary of France’s Areva; Siemens AG of Germany; and Russia’s AtomStroyExport.

Some in the United States are concerned about such technology transfers, citing recent Chinese plans to help Pakistan build reactors that can produce plutonium, but Diaz said any deal would bar China from transferring technology to another country.

China has nine nuclear power plants in operation, including French, Canadian, Russian and Japanese designs, as well as its own model, with a combined capacity of 7010 MW.

It wants to boost capacity to about 36 000 MW by 2020.

The United States, by contrast, has built no new reactors since the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979.