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Westinghouse helps develop China's nuclear sector
By Wan Zhihong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-03-02 07:55

Log onto the website, a major employment portal in China, and you can find an advertisement for Westinghouse, on which the US-based nuclear power offers a number of jobs in China.

"We are making continuous efforts to find more local talents in China," said Liu Xingang, vice-president of Westinghouse, adding the move came after the company signed its milestone deal with China in 2007.

China finalized an agreement with Westinghouse two years ago, under which it would use the US company's AP1000 technology to build two nuclear power plants with four reactors in Zhejiang and Shandong provinces.

Although details of the deal have yet to be officially announced, media reports have estimated the agrreeement, the first example of large-scale Sino-US nuclear cooperation, was worth $8 billion.

Westinghouse's AP1000 third-generation nuclear power technology is seen as the most advanced in the field at the moment. The two nuclear power plants are also the company's first major projects in China.

"Everything is going smoothly with the two plants," said Liu. "We will start construction of the Sanmen plant in Zhejiang in March, and later begin building the Haiyang plant in Shandong."

Zhang Guobao, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said earlier that China would start construction of four nuclear power plants this year. The Sanmen and Haiyang plants are included in the plan.

"The global financial crisis has so far made little impact on our business," said Liu.

For Westinghouse, there was more good news in China recently. The country is poised to revise its energy development plans by nearly doubling its nuclear power capacity over the next decade.

In an earlier plan for China's nuclear industry, the country planned to increase its nuclear power capacity to 40 gW by 2020, accounting for 4 percent of the nation's total power capacity. However, the target has since been revised to 70 gW.

"We welcome China's plan to further develop nuclear power. With more use of this clean energy, China will improve its energy structure," said Liu.

China's nuclear power industry will continue to see accelerated development over the next decade, and will not be affected by the global financial crisis, said Yu Jianfeng, vice-general manager of China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).

"In times of economic downturn, nuclear projects help to boost the domestic economy, as they require a large amount of investment," he said. "Construction of nuclear power projects can also boost many other industries, such as steel, metallurgy and building has materials."

In line with the policy to boost domestic demand, China started construction of three nuclear power plants since last November. The three projects, located in Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong have a total investment of around 200 billion yuan.

New technology

The Sanmen nuclear power plant, which has two reactors, each with a capacity of 1,000 mW, will also become the world's first plant using Westinghouse's third-generation nuclear power technology, said Liu.

"We are fully confident of making it a model project," he said.

According to Westinghouse, the design of the AP1000, a pressurized water reactor, has three main advantages - safety, economic competitiveness and greater efficiency.

China has put an increasing focus on the construction of third-generation nuclear reactors in recent years. In 2007, the country set up the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp Ltd (SNPTC), which is mainly responsible for the domestic development of nuclear power using advanced third-generation technology from overseas.

Besides the agreement with Westinghouse, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group signed an 8-billion-euro deal in 2007 with French nuclear company Areva for two third-generation reactors. Under the agreement, Areva will use its European pressurized reactor technology to build a plant in Taishan, Guangdong province.

Construction of the two reactors, each with a capacity of 1,700 mW, will begin in the fall of 2009. They are expected to begin operations in 2014, according to sources close to the deal.

"Although Westinghouse's technology is different to that of Areva in terms of its design, compared with the first or second-generation technology it offers two distinct advantages: greater safety and improved fuel efficiency," said Fu Manchang, a veteran nuclear analyst.

"It (third-generation technology) will become the mainstream for China's nuclear sector," he said.

China currently has 11 nuclear reactors in operation, using domestically developed technology as well as imported technology from France, Russia and Canada, all of which is first or second generation.

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