SEPTEMBER 21ST 2015
FALLOUT FROM TIANJIN REACHES NATIONAL NUCLEAR ASSETS
In the wake of the chemical warehouse explosion in Tianjin, which claimed the lives of more than 160 people, China’s nuclear sector is set to undergo stringent inspections.
Safety concerns come at a time when Chinese actors such as China General Nuclear Power Group and China National Nuclear Corp begin forays abroad. Working with the France’s EDF Group, the two Chinese firms will play a role in the development of new atomic plants in the United Kingdom. The UK nuclear regulator is in the upper echelon when it comes to regulations. If Chinese firms can successfully navigate design assessments, exports to other countries would be sure to follow.
Pakistan has also been a beneficiary of Chinese technical assistance for plant construction, part of Beijing’s movement along the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. While stagnating in forays abroad over the past thirty years, movements into Kenya and even South Africa are signaling new opportunities for the export of Chinese technology. However, Beijing faces strong competition from existing competitors.
Quality control shortcomings, showcased in a recent spate of tragic events, thus signal a worrying precedent that, if able to be revealed in China’s domestic nuclear energy sector, could signal impediments for the state’s ‘going out’ strategy.
While domestic construction has stalled since the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan, inland asset proposals appear to be moving forward in order to reach the target of 58GW of installed generation capacity by the end of 2020, an increase from the current 23GW output.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection’s announcement orders safety checks on more than 50 nuclear power generating units. Inspections are due to be completed in November. Despite vows to adhere only to stringent ‘third generation’ safety standards, the Westinghouse-designed AP1000 reactor in Zhejiang province has already been delayed from design flaws and the advance of tougher quality control and safety checks. The fallout from Tianjin may be a blessing in disguise or another setback for the both domestic developments and exports of indigenous technology.
Annex Asia Publishing
Image: China Daily.