China to Sell Outdated Nuclear Reactors to Pakistan

Despite recent efforts to half its own nuclear plant projects, spokeswoman Jiang Yu says China will still export nuclear technology to Pakistan. From Voice of America:

As for Pakistan, though, she [Jiang Yu] said only that China and Pakistan’s nuclear cooperation has been under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

China has provided two reactors to Pakistan’s Chasma plant, with a deal that it provide two more. American officials have not expressed outright opposition, but have said if China goes ahead with Chasma 3 and 4, these actions would be “inconsistent” with commitments it made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004.

One expert interviewed in the article said this news was not so worrisome, though, because China’s nuclear technology lags far behind from that of the West.

“So far most of the reactors that the Chinese themselves have built on the basis of their own know-how reflects a technology which was available in the West and in advanced nuclear countries outside of China about 30 years ago,” he said. “The Chinese are exporting this equipment – this is the technology which China has been exporting to Pakistan. I don’t believe right now that there is a major world market outside of Pakistan which is very interested in this technology.”

Hibbs says France, Japan, and the United States provide the world’s most advanced nuclear technology, so he sees China as having commercial reasons for wanting to catch up. He says China also has geopolitical concerns for wanting to help Pakistan.

“What is important for China is that this deal cements and underpins China’s strategic partnership with Pakistan in the political and military area,” said Hibbs. “But it also provides a workplace for China’s nuclear industry to gain experience in building nuclear power plants abroad, an endeavor that the Chinese in the future very much want to do.”

Pakistan has become an increasingly important ally for China. From Forbes:

China is Pakistan’s oldest military and political ally, but in the last two decades it is the economic component of the alliance that has taken center stage. Pakistan, and in particular Balochistan, is China’s physical link to its sizable investments in Iranian gas, Afghan hydropower and Gulf oil. Explains Andrew Small, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, the Sino-Pak relationship “matters more now, because of India’s economic growth. Pakistan being a trade and energy corridor means that possible pipelines and projects [in Pakistan] have a strategic significance beyond the specific investments.” Chinese control of Pakistan’s commodities corridor can “bind India down in South Asia, restricting its capacity to operate elsewhere.”

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