Beijing, February 9 – A Chinese official has confirmed that China is involved in as many as six nuclear power projects in Pakistan and is likely to export more reactors to the country, indicating that the much debated civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries will go ahead despite concerns voiced that it is in contravention of Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) guidelines.
While China has in the past declined to confirm or share details regarding the extent of its on-going civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, a top official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the planning body, was quoted as saying on Saturday that Beijing has been involved in the construction of six reactors in Pakistan.
Wang Xiaotao, vice-minister of the NDRC, was quoted as saying by State media that the NDRC was keen to support further exports to Pakistan and other countries.
To this end, the NDRC is drawing up new guidelines to announce supportive financial policies for exports in the nuclear sector. Railways exports would also be supported under the new guidelines, Wang said.
Announcing the guidelines at a Beijing press conference, Wang said that China “has assisted in building six nuclear reactors in Pakistan with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts”.China was also exporting nuclear technology to Argentina, with the two countries on Wednesday signing a deal for exporting heavy-water reactors.
China’s recent projects with Pakistan have come under scrutiny as the NSG does not allow members to supply nuclear technology to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India had to seek a waiver from the NSG for its civilian nuclear cooperation with the US, and obtained one only after undertaking a range of commitments.
China only declared the first two reactors it had constructed for Pakistan, Chashma-1 and Chashma-2, at the time of joining the NSG, according to Indian and American officials.
In 2009, the China National Nuclear Corporation signed agreements for two new reactors, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4. The deals became a matter of controversy and were debated at the NSG, with China arguing that the reactors were “grandfathered” as part of its earlier Chashma agreement and were not new projects per se. China also argued that the deals were under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and were legitimate.
The two countries last year announced they would undertake a new project in Karachi, with Pakistani media reports saying China would provide $ 6.5 billion to finance two reactors there. At the time, Beijing declined to confirm those reports.
While the Chinese Foreign Ministry has, in the past, argued that China’s cooperation with Pakistan “did not violate norms of the NSG”, Beijing’s main argument was that the Chashma reactors were part of an earlier deal. With China going ahead with building two new reactors in Karachi, it remains to be seen how Beijing will explain the deals’ validity under NSG guidelines.