Nuclear co-op a new front for China's diplomacy
Updated: 2013-12-09 14:46
Nuclear cooperation has become an issue frequently discussed in recent high-profile meetings between Chinese and foreign leaders. Like "high-speed rail diplomacy," experts say China's nuclear energy sector is also a rising star on the country's diplomatic stage.
During Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Romania in late November, the two sides agreed that the CGN would join the construction of units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant in Romania.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said during his trip to China in October that Chinese companies will supply components to American nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina as part of a bilateral cooperation agreement between the two countries.
"Nuclear power development is a technology- and capital-intensive industry. And considering its sensitivity, no transnational cooperation can go on without political trust," Li Ning said. "So it's not just about business, but also an area of diplomacy."
Diplomacy may also play a part at the company level, as ambitious Chinese companies may find themselves besieged by an increasingly jittery public as they enter other countries.
Nuclear safety has been a thorny issue worldwide after the nuclear meltdown at Japan's Fukushima. Countries such as Germany, Italy and Switzerland have planned to reduce the proportion of nuclear energy in their power consumption or halt their civil nuclear development, despite arguments that the clean energy source can contribute to the world's efforts to cut carbon emissions.
The retreat of foreign rivals may mean more opportunities for Chinese nuclear companies, but it also suggests the extra challenge of responding to public concerns over nuclear safety.
Pu Jilong, former safety director of the CGN, said public concerns have become an inevitable challenge for Chinese nuclear enterprises, which in the future may face requirements to disclose their records on nuclear power plant construction, operation and supervision, and continue to seek safer and more reliable technologies.