China's main nuclear energy corporation is in talks to build a 1-gigawatt atomic power plant in Pakistan, an executive said on Monday, a move that could intensify international unease about their nuclear embrace.
China has already helped Pakistan build its main nuclear power facility at Chashma, where one reactor is running and another near finished, and it has contracts to build two more there.
Qiu Jiangang, vice president of the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), told a meeting in Beijing that the company was already looking beyond those deals to an even bigger plant.
"Both sides are in discussions over the CNNC exporting a one-gigawatt nuclear plant to Pakistan," he said.
Qiu confirmed the two countries have signed contracts to build the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of about 300 megawatts each at Chashma.
He did not give details about who was involved in discussions for the bigger plant and how far the talks had progressed.
China says safeguards in place at Chashma ensure its role is entirely peaceful. The complex is China's first nuclear energy plant project abroad, and CNNC recently cast it as a launching pad for expanding into the global market.
"We must rely on the Pakistan Chashma nuclear power project to improve our ability to contract for nuclear power projects abroad, and to open up the foreign market for nuclear energy," the company said in an essay recently published in Seeking Truth.
A senior Pakistani government official familiar with discussions between Pakistan and China on nuclear cooperation said, "We are facing acute energy shortages and these nuclear power plants are important for us to overcome these shortages."
"We as well as China have said time and again that all this cooperation is under the safeguards of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and there should not be any worries or concerns about it," said the official, who demanded anonymity.
Chinese nuclear industry executives said at Monday's seminar that the expanding nuclear power sector abroad offered abundant opportunities.
China prides itself in building the Lingao reactor that began fully operating in the country's far southern Guangdong province last week in a record-breaking period of 57 months.
"All these experiences have laid the foundation for the nuclear sector to go overseas," said He Yu, chairman of the Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp.
China plans a massive expansion of its nuclear power in the next decade, and has about 28 reactors currently under construction, some 40 percent of the world's total being built.