China says third Pakistan nuclear reactor connected to grid

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The third unit of the Chashma nuclear project in Pakistan has gone into full operation, marking the completion of China’s third overseas reactor, the Chinese firm in charge of construction said on Monday.

The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said in a notice that the unit was formally connected to the grid on Saturday at a ceremony in Pakistan.

China’s first overseas reactor at Chashma went into operation in the year 2000, while the second was completed in 2011. The fourth unit is expected to go into full operation in the first half of next year.

China has also agreed to invest $6.5 billion to build a reactor in Pakistan’s Karachi. The project will mark the overseas debut of China’s homegrown third-generation reactor design known as the Hualong One. It is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

Beijing is in the middle of a reactor building program that aims to bring domestic nuclear generating capacity up to 58 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2020, up from 31.5 GW at the end of August. An industry official said last month that as many as 60 nuclear plants are expected to be built in the coming decade.

But China’s long-term target is to become a dominant player in the global nuclear market. As well as investing in Britain’s Hinkley Point C reactor with France’s EDF, Beijing has also signed cooperation agreements with countries like Argentina, Romania, Egypt and Kenya.

CNNC said in the notice that it had already exported a total of seven reactor units, and had also established technology and trade relations with more than 40 nations.

But China’s involvement in the construction of reactors in Pakistan is controversial. Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), meaning that it is not bound by safeguards that ensure fissile materials are used only for peaceful purposes.

Representatives with the International Atomic Energy Agency told Reuters last month that while China’s safety record was strong, it had to do more to ensure that countries importing Chinese technology were capable of imposing the necessary regulations.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Christian Schmollinger