Two to become one?

30 April 2001

Two competing power plant projects for inclusion in China’s 10th five-year plan are facing problems which may result in one being cancelled and the other delayed.

Investors in Guangdong province are moving ahead with plans for two more PWRs at Ling Ao, but project proposals in Zhejiang province and Shandong province have had a number of problems.

The Shandong proposal for a PWR project is backed by China’s State Power Corporation (SPC), which was created out of the former China Ministry of Electric Power and is nominally in control of all the country’s power generation and transmission assets. SPC was leading efforts to raise funding for the project.

However, China is breaking up SPC and separating out the generation and transmission businesses. This may lead to the generation half of SPC being further broken up into municipal or regional organisations. If that is the case, SPC will not be in a position to raise funds for the project.

The Shandong project suffered a blow when criminal justice investigators arrested a former vice president of SPC and its director of international relations on charges of corruption. The judicial investigation of SPC management will not help its chances of building the power plant in Shandong. In addition, doubts have been raised over the suitability of Shandong for a nuclear power plant project as the region is in greater need of restructuring of its ageing industry rather than additional power supplies.

The problems facing the Zhejiang project are different. A bid by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build more reactors at Qinshan was turned down by Zhejiang planners. A compromise decision was reached in which Zhejiang would support CNNC’s plans, but at a fresh site at Sanmen.

CNNC has no independent financing sources to back its bid to build the standardised 1000MWe PWR it wants to use as the basis of the future Chinese nuclear power industry.

It is expected that CNNC will bid for the project with BNFL/Westinghouse, alongside the Shanghai Nuclear Energy Research and Design Institute. Westinghouse has offered a 1000MWe PWR based on Vandellos 2. China has shown little interest in Westinghouse’s AP600, as China is looking for ‘proven technology’.

Sanmen might be approved by the end of this year, particularly if talks involving US and European industry and government officials result in a package deal to expand the field of reactors included in the 10th five-year plan from two to four and to divide the work between Framatome ANP and Westinghouse.

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