Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Emma Graham-Harrison, "China's ambitious plan for more nuclear power," Reuters, May 27, 2008.

[An environmental movement that concentrates on renewable energy and green companies as solutions to climate change will eventually have to deal with the view that fast-breeder reactors are "renewable" and nuclear power is "emission free." Simply declaring these ideas to be false isn't going to be enough. -jlt]

BEIJING: Nuclear power companies in China aim to join automobile and electronics makers as export powerhouses, but big domestic expansion plans may not leave them the capacity to make an overseas push for more than a decade, analysts say.

A $1 billion deal signed last week with Russia to build and supply a uranium enrichment plant in China was another step toward civilian nuclear independence, less than two decades after China's first nuclear generator came on line.

The country sealed deals last year with Areva of France and Westinghouse for several third-generation reactors and the blueprints to allow them to develop domestic versions.

The nuclear power companies have mastered the construction of older models at a speed that is impressing Asian neighbors who cannot afford nuclear models sold by Western companies or are not allowed to buy them.

Countries like Vietnam and Indonesia are eager to build plants to convey a sense of modernity and to cut their fuel bills, and they see Beijing as the answer to financial and political problems.

"They know the Chinese have a lot of money and they're not necessarily as rigid as Western investors," said Bob Herrerra Lim, an analyst for Eurasia Group, a consulting firm based in the United States. "The Chinese could be the accelerator. They could say, 'We're willing to take a longer term look, because these countries have a strategic value to us.' And obviously there's a lot of policy behavior in many of their companies."

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