BEIJING, (AFP) – China is on the verge of agreeing with Islamabad to build a second nuclear plant in Pakistan for civilian use, underlining the close cooperation between the atomic neighbours, a report said.
The 300 megawatt nuclear power plant at Chashma, in the central Pakistani province of Punjab, will be built next to the first Chinese supplied plant, which became operational in 1999.
The Financial Times quoted Pakistani officials as saying the deal was now “in the final stages” with technicalities being hammered out at secret talks in Beijing last week.
The paper said a price now had to be settled, ending several months of Sino-Pakistani negotiations following discussions on the subject between President Pervez Musharraf and Chinese leader Hu Jintao in Beijing in November.
The China National Nuclear Cooperation (CNNC) confirmed the talks had taken place but refused to reveal the outcome.
“From March 1 to March 5 the Pakistan delegation headed by the president of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Committee Pervez Butt visited China National Nuclear Cooperation officials in Beijing,” CNNC said on its website.
“They discussed the second power plant project.”
The imminent deal comes despite the United States repeatedly urging China to halt nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.
Observers have noted that Beijing’s help in the second phase of the Chasma project would allow Islamabad to obtain enriched plutonium while being a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Pakistani officials said safeguards for the two reactors at Chashma would ensure they were used only for generating electricity, the paper reported.
The deal underlines the close cooperation between the two countries and follows revelations that a group of Pakistani scientists sold nuclear know-how to Iran, Libya and possibly North Korea (news – web sites).
China allegedly assisted Pakistan’s nuclear program in the past, but that assistance has reportedly been halted.
Pakistan has relied heavily on China for its defence equipment since 1990 when the United States stopped supplying it with military hardware amid claims it had acquired the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
Pakistan confirmed it had nuclear weapons in May 1998 when it matched tests conducted by India.