China and Kazakhstan enjoy obvious advantages in nuclear energy cooperation

Seetao 2022-10-26 10:57
  • At present, many countries around the world are launching nuclear power programs to seek a secure and clean energy supply
  • Kazakhstan has decided on the site of the nuclear power plant, with a total installed capacity of 2.4 million kilowatts
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28 Minutes

Clean and renewable energy is the only way for the world's energy development. Nuclear power, as a clean and efficient energy source, has once again been put on the development agenda of many countries. In recent months, Kazakhstan, a large country in Central Asia, has frequently announced the development of nuclear power. With the president's personal promotion, various preliminary work has been accelerated and the construction site has been selected in a short period of time. As a former member state of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has a close relationship with Russia. Considering Russia's absolute dominant position in the international nuclear power market in recent years, cooperation with Russia seems to be the established choice for Kazakhstan.

Unexpectedly, however, the Kazakh government clearly stressed that it would select partners through international bidding based on a full assessment of each party's technical routes and construction plans. At present, in addition to Russia, Kazakhstan considers China, South Korea, France and other nuclear powers as potential partners. Kazakhstan plans to select partners in early 2023 to enter the substantive phase of the project.

After the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia deliberately kept a distance. Considering the long-standing ethnic problems in Kazakhstan, the future direction of the relations between the two countries is uncertain. On the other hand, Kazakhstan is an important neighbor and long-term strategic cooperative partner of China. In recent years, China has remained Kazakhstan's second largest trading partner and major source of investment. In terms of nuclear power technology, China's independent Hualong One third-generation nuclear power technology has achieved extremely excellent engineering and construction performance, and successfully obtained the highest standard technical certification from the EU and the UK.

From the perspective of geopolitics and nuclear power technology itself, and other comprehensive analysis of China's participation in kazakhstan nuclear power project has greater comparative advantage, bilateral nuclear cooperation will also boost China's influence in central Asia, but the project cooperation fall to the ground state and the enterprise all levels make greater efforts to promote the national implementation of nuclear diplomacy, top drive, Enterprises to do excellent project technology, engineering, financing and other complete programs.

Nuclear power is officially on the agenda

Since 2021, the Kazakh government has repeatedly reiterated at various levels that it will build new nuclear power plants to achieve the goals of emission reduction and power supply simultaneously. Kazakh President Tokayev has personally directed and promoted the preliminary work of nuclear power projects.

In his annual State of the Nation address in September 2021, Tokayev emphasized that "Kazakhstan has proposed the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060 and is expected to face electricity shortages by 2030 as the coal era comes to an end. The experience of countries around the world shows that developing nuclear power is the best way to solve the power shortage."

"Without clean nuclear power, we will lose our entire economy, we will lose our leadership in the region, we need nuclear power," Tokayev reiterated at an expanded government meeting in February 2022, shortly after the unrest in Kazakhstan had ended.

Has the highest national reform committee meeting in June, tokayev, citing the international atomic energy agency (iaea) information, in the reduction of nuclear power and stable supply advantages to enumerate, at the same time stressed that "kazakhstan in consideration of nuclear power plant project technology suppliers list, in addition to the price standard, the reliability of its technology is also very important." In addition, he stressed the need to ensure that the country's skilled personnel are adequately educated and that industrial capacity and supply chains are established.

Later, Tokayev personally announced at the Council of Foreign Investors that Kazakhstan had chosen the site of its first nuclear power plant near Lake Balkhash in Almaty Prefecture, and made it clear that two nuclear power units with a total installed capacity of 2.4 million kW would be built.

Besides the President's new prime minister and secretary of energy, such as government officials also said on many occasions, the construction of nuclear power plant is the optimal solution to solve the problem of future kazakhstan electricity supply, at present, the department is organizing the Russian VVER, Korea APR1400, hualong 1 China and France EPR technologies preliminarily the three generations of nuclear power around the world.

Meanwhile, under Mr Tokayev's instructions, Samruk Kazyna, the country's state-owned regulator, has sent experts to France and Turkey, where four Russian VVER units are being built, to conduct research on nuclear power, and to Baraka in the United Arab Emirates. The plant was built using Korean technology.

In addition, it should be pointed out that Kazakhstan is not a "newcomer" in the nuclear industry. The former Soviet Union once built several experimental reactor reactors and nuclear science research centers in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is now the world's largest producer of natural uranium.

Kazakhstan currently nuclear power project development of state-owned enterprises, which is a kind of the nuclear power station co., LTD (KNPP), the company is a state-owned enterprise kazakh for new nuclear plants alone, harry state atomic energy company is responsible for uranium resources development and nuclear fuel processing industry, both belong to Luke - Sam card at sovereign wealth funds.

Comparative advantages of China-Kazakhstan nuclear energy cooperation

On the geopolitical front, after Kazakh President Tokayev came to power in 2019, China-Kazakhstan relations were upgraded to a permanent comprehensive strategic partnership, and the two countries have formed an official cooperation platform at the central government level led by the annual meeting of prime ministers and the Cooperation Committee. Since 2022, the leaders of the two countries have exchanged visits and reaffirmed their commitment to upholding China-Kazakhstan friendship, deepening cooperation and supporting each other.

In recent years, China has been Kazakhstan's second largest trading partner and major source of investment, as well as its second largest export market and largest source of imports. Even under the impact of the pandemic, bilateral trade reached nearly $25 billion in 2021, up 15% year on year. It is fair to say that the two countries enjoy remarkable geographical advantages, deepening political mutual trust and steady and sound economic and trade cooperation.

In sharp contrast, after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the relationship between Russia and Russia showed signs of weakening. Kazakhstan firmly maintains a neutral position in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and has made it clear that it does not recognize the two "independent republics" of Udumbas. Because Russia has long been the largest trading partner and largest foreign investor in western sanctions against Russia imposed by large scale has been in the import and export trade, finance and other aspects to influence the kazakh, expected economic and trade relations between the two countries could be sharply reduced, the recent bilateral cooperation in the oil pipeline has friction and bad feelings, What's more, Kazakhstan's northern border with Russia is dominated by ethnic Russians, facing the same situation as eastern Ukraine. Since nuclear power projects are highly sensitive, Kazakhstan is bound to be more cautious in its cooperation with Russia to avoid becoming a bargaining chip for Russian pressure in the future.

In terms of nuclear power technology itself, Hualong One, China's homegrown third-generation nuclear power technology, is an advanced million-kilowatt-level pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology jointly developed and designed by China National Nuclear Power Corporation (CNNC) and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN). Its first reactor demonstration project has achieved excellent engineering and construction performance. In November 2020, the first Hualong One reactor demonstration project -- CNNC Fuqing 5 unit was successfully connected to the grid for the first time. The construction period was only five and a half years, creating the best performance of the first generation nuclear reactor construction in the world. The successful demonstration of the first batch of projects prompted Hualong One to enter the mass construction stage in China, where a total of 10 units in five projects are currently under construction.

Overseas, in May 2021, Pakistan's Karachi Nuclear Power Unit 2, the first overseas reactor project of CNNC Hualong One, officially entered commercial operation. One year later, two units of the Karachi project were fully completed and put into operation on schedule. In February 2022, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Argentina Nuclear Power Corporation (NPP) officially signed the contract for the design, procurement and construction of Argentina's Artucha 3 nuclear power plant project, and Hualong One officially landed in Argentina.

Almost at the same time, CGN led Hualong One UK project also ushered in a major milestone. After five years, Hualong One completed the Generic Design Review (GDA) of the British nuclear safety regulator, which is known as the most stringent nuclear power technology certification in the world. Hualong One became the fourth nuclear power technology in the world to pass the GDA review, and the only nuclear power technology without major problems and major defects under the review. In addition, in November 2020, Hualong One passed the European Utility Requirements compliance assessment, meaning that the Hualong One design meets the latest European nuclear power requirements.

It can be said that the technical advancement and safety of China's independent third-generation nuclear power technology Hualong One have been fully verified, and it is one of the third-generation nuclear power models with the highest acceptance in the current nuclear power market.

From the perspective of Kazakhstan, apart from geopolitics and nuclear power technology, nuclear fuel supply is also an important factor to consider when choosing a nuclear power project partner. In January 2021, the national atomic energy companies and the construction of the nuclear cooperation in nuclear fuel element plant put into operation, the project is to introduce French framatome fuel manufacturing technology, authorized processing France fuel type, its fuel design and hualong is fully compatible with number one, this means that if the kazakh choose hualong technology, number one in the future can be directly the localization of nuclear fuel production and supply.

Greater efforts will be made to promote it

Taking various factors into consideration, the author believes that China's nuclear power export to Kazakhstan has a good opportunity. The landing of Hualong One in Kazakhstan can greatly enhance China's influence in Central Asia, and it will also become a landmark project in the layout of nuclear power along the Belt and Road, truly creating a "national name card" for nuclear power to go abroad.

Effectively promote bilateral nuclear cooperation fall to the ground, on the one hand, need to strengthen "nuclear diplomacy" at the national level, the nuclear power project cooperation into high visit agenda, the leaders of the two countries at the government level to establish regular consultation mechanism, in particular, nuclear power project cooperation can be incorporated into the existing energy agenda on between the two countries, at the same time must be within as a whole and collaborative division of labor, avoid internal competition.

Level, on the other hand, enterprises should actively docking with the kazakhstan government departments and relevant enterprises, the location, the nuclear safety regulatory system building, personnel training, etc, to provide support to kazakhstan, also can consider kazakhstan to small proportion in the domestic nuclear power projects, for the nuclear power plant construction and operation experience, on the basis of demonstration projects at the same time, the sustained hualong 1 design improvements, Make excellent project technology, engineering, financing and other complete plans. Editor/Xu Shengpeng