On some days here in Beijing, you only have to walk a few blocks to understand why the nuclear industry is so important to China. The ache in your throat and lungs will remind you that reliance on coal-fired power stations has left big cities with air quality that leaves a lot to be desired.
Switching electricity generation to nuclear is seen as the quickest way to reduce emissions. No fewer than 23 reactors are now under construction in China to add to the 31 already in operation. The 13th five year plan envisages building another six-to-eight reactors per year until 2020.
All of this means that China’s nuclear programme represents a huge potential opportunity for everyone involved in the industry.
That opportunity is no longer restricted to China itself. Under its One Belt One Road economic development initiative, China aims to build more than 30 reactors abroad by 2030, with target countries spread across Asia, Europe and Africa.
China’s investment in the UK’s nuclear new build programme will be a huge spur for supply chain collaboration. Amec Foster Wheeler is already advising Chinese reactor vendors on deploying their technology in the UK.
We also believe that our expertise and global network can help China’s nuclear industry with its export drive.
We have the capability to offer support throughout the nuclear life-cycle, from uranium mining to reactor design, construction and commissioning, operation and maintenance, plant life extension, late life management, decommissioning and clean up.
I am in Beijing this week for UKTI/China-Britain Business Council’s nuclear trade mission, where Amec Foster Wheeler has signed a wide-ranging agreement with China Nuclear Engineering & Construction (Group) Corporation (CNEC), the company which is building many of China’s new reactors.
Our joint memorandum of understanding covers potential opportunities in nuclear power development, construction, operation and decommissioning projects globally.
In particular, we will be looking at the development and deployment of reactors in the UK and internationally, as well as specialist knowledge that we can each contribute towards reactor outage management, operation, ageing management, lifetime extension and upgrading existing units.
Working with China’s nuclear industry is not new for us. Our nuclear business in Canada helped build the Qinshan III reactor using Candu technology. It has been operating safely and economically for more than 14 years and is rated as a top performer by the World Association of Nuclear Operators.
Moreover, we already have a big business in China, headquartered in Shanghai and employing more than 2,000 people who mainly work on projects in mining and oil and gas.
Looking ahead, we believe that China’s nuclear export drive represents a major opportunity. Ultimately, our vision is to be seen as the premier international partner for the Chinese nuclear industry.