China drafts new nuclear energy law, focus on international market

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will provide more support for its nuclear firms to go overseas and strengthen their position on the international market, according to new draft legislation submitted to the industry for consultation on Friday.

“The state will encourage and support the positive and orderly participation of its enterprises in the international market” and promote the export of nuclear equipment, fuel and services, the draft Atomic Energy Law says.

China aims to bring its total installed nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2020, up from 37 GW at the end of June this year, but it also has ambitions to dominate the global market and has created a unified third-generation reactor brand known as the “Hualong One” to sell overseas.

China has already signed a series of preliminary agreements with countries like Brazil, Argentina, Uganda and Cambodia and it is also undergoing a technical approval process for the Hualong One in Britain.

The government also published new guidelines last month aimed at promoting its own technical standards in foreign markets and play a “leading role” in the global nuclear technology standardization process.

However, its only overseas nuclear project so far is the Chashma nuclear complex in Pakistan.

China’s new draft atomic energy law sets out the government’s responsibilities when it comes to disclosing information about the safety and environmental impact of nuclear power. It also includes clauses calling for the “convergence” of military and civilian research into nuclear energy.

It calls for the establishment of a uranium reserve and a system for storing, transporting and treating spent fuel. Members of the public are invited to submit their opinions about the legislation to the Ministry of Justice before Oct. 19.

China was once regarded as one of the bright spots for the global nuclear sector, but its ambitious domestic reactor building program has slowed considerably, with no new projects approved since 2016.

In a bid to guarantee safety in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011, China promised to deploy only new and safer reactor technology, including Westinghouse’s AP1000 and the EPR designed by France’s Areva.

But the untested models have been repeatedly delayed amid design flaws and huge cost overruns, and Beijing is now expected to struggle to meet its 58 GW target.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie