Cheney to promote American-made nuclear reactors
On a trip to China this week to talk about
high-stakes issues like terrorism and North Korea, Vice
President Dick Cheney will have another task - making a
pitch for Westinghouse’s U.S. nuclear power technology.
At stake could be billions of dollars in business in
coming years and thousands of American jobs. The initial
installment of four reactors, costing $1.5 billion
apiece, would also help narrow the huge U.S. trade
deficit with China.
China’s latest economic plan anticipates more than
doubling its electricity output by 2020 and the Chinese
government, facing enormous air pollution problems, is
looking to shift some of that away from coal-burning
plants. Its plan calls for building as many as 32 large 1,000-megawatt
reactors over the next 16 years.
No one has ordered a new nuclear power reactor in the
United States in three decades and the next one, if it
comes, is still years away. So, China is being viewed by
the U.S. industry as a potential bonanza.
Cheney’s three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai next
week is part of a weeklong trip to Asia that will also
include a stop in Tokyo. He departed Washington on Friday.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters
about the trip, said Cheney will not “pitch individual
commercial transactions.” But he intends to make clear
“we support the efforts of our American companies”
and general access to China’s markets, said the
official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some critics are concerned about such technology
“This pitch could not be more poorly timed,” Henry
Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation
Policy Education Center, told a hearing of the House
International Relations Committee recently.
Citing recent Chinese plans to help Pakistan build two
large reactors that are capable of producing plutonium,
he said it is not the time for China to be rewarded with
new reactor technology. U.S. officials said the Chinese
have given adequate assurances that such sales will not
pose a proliferation risk.
Bid solicitations for four new reactors are expected to
be issued by the Chinese within months.
The leading competitors are U.S.-based Westinghouse
Electric Co. and a French rival, Areva, which is peddling
its next-generation reactor built by its Framatome
Westinghouse is putting its hopes on its 1,100 megawatt
AP1000 reactor, an advanced design that is still waiting
approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it
can be built in the United States. Westinghouse, owned by
the British nuclear firm BNFL, is the only U.S.-based
manufacturer of a pressurized water reactor, the type of
design China has said it wants to pursue.
“Clearly the China market is very important to the
industry and a supplier like Westinghouse,” said Vaughn
Gilbert, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based reactor
vendor. “The Chinese market is one that we’re
Each of the AP1000 reactors are expected to cost about $1.5
billion. “We would assume there would be more than one
order,” Gilbert said, since China has indicated it
wants a standardized design across its reactor program. A
successful bid could mean 5,000 American jobs, Gilbert
said in an interview.
For the nuclear industry, the potential windfall goes
beyond building the power plants.
“The opportunity is not just in selling the Chinese a
number of reactors, but engaging them for a longer term
in a strategic partnership,” says Ron Simard, who deals
with future plant development at the Nuclear Energy
Institute, an industry trade group. That could mean
future construction contracts as well as plant service
The reactor business has been nonexistent in the United
States since the 1970s. No American utility has ordered a
new reactor since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear
So, vendors like Westinghouse are relying on business
elsewhere, especially Asia.
China currently has nine operating reactors, including
French, Canadian, Russian, and Japanese designs as well
as their own model, producing 6,450 megawatts of power,
or about 1.4 percent total capacity. Chinese officials
have estimated that by 2020 the country will need an
additional 32,000 megawatts from its nuclear industry, or
about 32 additional reactors.
Even with the surge in reactor construction, nuclear
power will only account for 8 percent of China’s future
electricity needs. Chinese officials said at an energy
conference in Washington last year their country must
more than double its coal-fired generation and build more
dams, erect windmills and tap natural gas to meet future
Zdroj: The Detroit News
zpìt na úvodní