Comments on sale of US Light Water Reactors to China

08 Dec, 1997    ·   39

P. K. Iyengar comments on the China-US agreement for sale of US light water reactors to China

The following are my comments on the China-US agreement for sale of US light water reactors to China :



Chinese motives



The Chinese have their own uranium ore and enrichment facilities. They have built on their own a 300 MW power station. They are building a similar reactor in Pakistan and have offered to build one for Iran . They have built their DAYA BAY power station in co-operation with France . They have also signed an agreement to import two Pressurised Water Reactors (PWR) from Russia . They plan to generate 10000 MW from atomic power stations in the next 10 years. Light water reactor technology is not unfamiliar to them. They are conversant with nuclear technology. Constructing plants of 1000 MW unit size, however, is difficult for China because of the size of the components, both in the nuclear as well as in the conventional part of the power plant. They need external help, especially from countries that have built a large number of such plants, to scale up the unit size. It is here that help from the US would be most welcome to China .



US motives



To my mind, it is not the Chinese who asked for this deal. The nuclear industry in the United States has not had orders from within the country for a long time. The industry is afraid that if the present situation continues for some more time, they would find it difficult to maintain and further develop high level technology in this area. It is therefore necessary for the health of the American nuclear industry to get orders from abroad.



China is a gigantic market. They have decided to enlarge their atomic power programme. They also have surplus dollar reserves. The Chinese would like to familiarise themselves with US technology for reactors of higher rating in addition to those they are getting from France and Germany in future. That would enable them to firmly establish their atomic power industry, especially, manufacture of perhaps, the conventional side of these power stations. They are therefore trying to leapfrog in nuclear power technology. Since the present offer originated from the US , they [the Chinese] have to make no political compromises. It is in this light that China will look at this deal.



These views have been expressed by P. K. Iyengar in his individual capacity and do not represent the views of the Atomic Energy Commission or any other organisation of the Government of India .



Question:Will this China-US deal make it easier for India to obtain nuclear power technology (advanced pressurised heavy water reactors) from the United States ? For this proposition, it could be argued, as Iyengar has done, that the American nuclear power industry is eager to secure orders from aboard. Against this proposition, it could be urged that India has not signed the NPT. It will not be made an exception from the operations of US laws prohibiting the transfer of nuclear technology to non-NPT signatories. China , incidentally, joined the NPT in 1992.