Technical support for US nuclear project

Updated: 2012-10-27 11:13

By Wei Tian (China Daily)

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China is to provide technical support for the first time in the building of a third-generation nuclear power plant in the United States.

State Nuclear Power Technology Corp Ltd said on Friday that it had signed a technical support service contract with Shaw Power Group related to the building of the Vogtle AP1000 project in Georgia, the first new reactor approved by the US government in nearly 30 years.

The cooperation involves sending Chinese employees to the project over the next four years, with the first batch of six people expected to include planners and electrical engineers, all experienced in building AP1000 projects, commonly known as third-generation reactors.

As the first engineers to participate in the building of a US nuclear power plant, they will not only share their knowledge learned in China, but also be able to gain great experience of working on a project outside the country, said Wang Binghua, chairman of State Nuclear Power.

Shaw Group, together with Westinghouse Co, will be responsible for the design, supply and technical support in building reactors No 3 and No 4 at Vogtle, which were approved in February.

The reactors were also the first in the world to get the green light after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan last year.

The units will cost about $14 billion and could be operational as soon as 2016, Reuters reported.

State Nuclear Power and Shaw Group had initially agreed in April 2009 to support each other in growing nuclear infrastructure business.

Eli Smith, Shaw Power Group's president and chief operating officer, said his company has been working with State Nuclear Power for a number of years, "so selecting them was easy for us, because of their good reputation".

Following completion of the Vogtle project, the two sides may also extend their cooperation to others projects around the world, Smith said.

"China has accumulated great technical experience in some areas which we don't have and so we are looking forward to working with them," he added.

The technical export agreement comes at a time of heightened commercial tension between China and the US.

US President Barack Obama recently blocked a wind farm project by China's Sany Group, out of "national security concerns".

But Smith said the agreement was approved by the US government years ago, and necessary steps have been taken by both sides to ensure "national security is not a concern in this case".

Exporting experience

Although the Vogtle project represents a landmark first step for China to provide support to a developed economy, the nation already has experience of offering its experience in nuclear power plant construction elsewhere in the world

China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group Corp, or CNEC, last week welcomed its first group of industry delegates from six countries from Southeast Asia, to its International Construction Training Center in Beijing, the first nuclear industry construction training center established on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

CNEC has been responsible for the building all of China's nuclear power plants over the past 30 years, as well as the Chashma nuclear power plant in Pakistan.

"The main purpose of the center is to provide training and facilities to people who work in nuclear field, including from governments, regulators and operators, in particular from emerging economies," said Guo Linquan, a safety officer at IAEA.