China’s nuclear energy ambitions

A map of the world showing countries that are buying, or consider acquiring nuclear power facilities from China
China has lined up some actual deals and Memoranda of Understanding for exporting its nuclear power technology worldwide (source: macpixxel for GIS)
  • Beijing’s drive to export civilian nuclear technology is part of a wider, long-term development strategy
  • With their first export contracts, Chinese companies are quickly obtaining a lot of useful experience
  • China’s first domestically designed reactor is a hard sell, but Beijing’s competitive edge is its ability to finance projects

As Chinese President Xi Jinping rode through London in a golden carriage with British Queen Elizabeth II in October 2015, officials were finalizing the announcement of a striking deal: China would pour billions into the troubled, French-led Hinkley Point nuclear power project – in exchange for London’s permission to build a Chinese nuclear power plant elsewhere in the UK.

That was a major step toward realizing Beijing’s dream of making China a world leader in the export of civilian nuclear technology. If the UK considered China a suitable partner for a strategic investment of this scope, then perhaps other developed markets could open up to the Chinese nuclear industry. While the deal is indicative of China’s rapid success in developing nuclear exports, significant hurdles remain.

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