"Made in China" nuclear reactors a tough sell in global market

viernes 6 de marzo de 2015 02:43 GYT
 

By Charlie Zhu and David Stanway

HONG KONG/BEIJING, March 6 (Reuters) - As China signs global deals to export its nuclear power technology, it faces a huge obstacle: it still needs to show it can build and safely operate these reactors at home.

Aided by foreign technology acquired during three decades of development, China has the highest number of reactors being built and ambitions to export its home-grown models to an overseas market worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Premier Li Keqiang told an annual parliamentary meeting this week that the China aimed to increase its share of global sales in a range of advanced industries, including implementing major projects in nuclear power.

And in a sign of progress on exporting its own nuclear technology, China signed a preliminary agreement last month to sell its flagship Hualong 1 reactor to Argentina.

But despite state media describing the deal as the model's "maiden voyage", China has not yet built Hualong 1, raising questions about the country's capacity to deliver reactors for the global market.

"Our fatal weakness is our management standards are not high enough. There is a big gap with international standards," said Xu Lianyi, a senior expert at China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC), referring to the challenges China faces expanding its nuclear power sector.

SNPTC, which was set up to receive technology transferred from Westinghouse Electric Co., is trying to develop another reactor ultimately targeted at the world market.

Although China has operated Western-designed reactors at home for more than 20 years, it will need to convince buyers of the reliability of its own technology, particularly given a chequered reputation on industrial standards and safety in some other areas such as mining.   Continuación...