China Confirms Pakistan Nuclear Projects

Top official confirms extent of the growing Sino-Pakistan nuclear link.

China Confirms Pakistan Nuclear Projects
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Anthony Maw

A Chinese official publicly confirmed Monday that Beijing is involved in at least six nuclear power projects in Pakistan and is likely to export more to the country, media reports said.

In a press conference in Beijing, Wang Xiaotao, the vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said China “has assisted in building six nuclear reactors in Pakistan with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts.”

Wang, who was unveiling plans for new guidelines for Chinese exports in the nuclear sector, also said that Beijing was keen to provide further exports to countries, which would presumably include Pakistan given previous reports and trends.

The Sino-Pakistan nuclear link has been well-known even though some specifics are often shrouded in secrecy. This is reportedly the first time that a top official has publicly admitted to such a scale of China’s cooperation with Pakistan.

Revelations about the growing Sino-Pakistan nuclear axis comes amid continuing concerns expressed by some that ongoing cooperation is occurring without the sanction of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which helps supervise the export of global civilian nuclear technology. China is a member of the NSG and existing regulations prohibit members from exporting such technology nations like Pakistan which do not adopt full-scale safeguards.

China declared the first two reactors it already agreed to construct for Pakistan – the Chashma-1 and Chashma 2 – at the time it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, with the expectation that no new deals would follow. But in 2010, the China National Nuclear Cooperation announced it would export technology for two new reactors, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4 because it argued – rather controversially – that these projects were already grandfathered in under previous agreements rather than being fresh proposals.

News of other deals has since followed, including a November 2013 announcement that China would help build two reactors in Karachi and a January 2014 report about talks on three other reactors, which The Diplomat reported on here. Pakistani officials say this is part of broader plans to produce around 8,800 megawatts of electricity from nuclear power by 2030 and overcome crippling power shortages that plague the nation.

Pakistan has also previously sought to secure an exception within the NSG which would allow it to conduct nuclear commerce freely with suppliers. India had received one with U.S. support in 2008 and New Delhi is now seeking membership in the NSG. Both India and Pakistan are not members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.