Selling CANDUs in Chinaby Jeremy Whitlock
That was the message of Keith Bradley, AECL's Director for the Asia-Pacific market, at a packed CNS public seminar held Dec. 16 at the J.L.Gray Centre.
Opportunities for CANDU in China were the subject of Dr. Bradley's talk, "Fuelling the Dragon".
Dr. Bradley has 30 years' experience in the nuclear industry, including international experience in Romania with the Cernavoda CANDU project, and for the last three years in China.
The Canadian foot is firmly in the door of the Asia-Pacific market, with two CANDUs at Qinshan nearing completion (Qinshan-1 now at full power and connected to the grid).
Qinshan is already known as the fastest and smoothest nuclear construction project in China, and will provide much of the sales pitch for future contracts in the region.
And hopefully many future contracts there will be: Dr. Bradley estimates that one-third of the nuclear plants built worldwide in the next half-century will be built in China. That's about 300 GW of power (about 75 Darlington-sized stations), and Dr. Bradley sees 25% of this market going to CANDU.
The scenario is based on 3.5% growth in China's electricity demand over the next 50 years, as it brings its per-capita usage up to that of a neighbouring industrialized nation like South Korea or Taiwan (1 to 1.5 kW/person). The projection is modest compared to China's average growth of 11% in the last half-century.
By 2050 China will have added another 200 million people to its population of 1.3 billion, and will be the world's second-largest economy, and largest energy consumer.
These ambitious plans will help China overcome decades of economic stagnation, but still leave it with less than one-third the per-capita electricity consumption of a country like Canada.
Half of the increase in electricity capacity will come from coal, of which there is no shortage. The rest is divided almost equally between hydro and nuclear, plus a small contribution from renewables.
One might ask why projects like the current Three Gorges Dam (the world's largest hydro plant) couldn't contribute more, but variable water flow limits their usefulness. Three Gorges' 18.2 GW, for instance, will only satisfy 9 months of China's expected growth in demand.
CANDU's potential contribution is fuel-cycle flexibility. China is short on uranium resources but long on thorium, an advanced fuel material that CANDU reactors are eminently suited to.
In the meantime, existing CANDU designs (like the ACR) can reduce China's nuclear fuel consumption by at least 40%.
China also plans an ambitions fast-breeder program, which CANDU technology can synergistically exploit..
However, Dr. Bradley stressed that China must buy into CANDU's long-term contribution, if it is to invest in any more CANDUs today. Otherwise there is little incentive to deviate from the mainstream PWR program already in place.
He also maintained that sales to China will need significant technology transfer agreements, including the freedom to build their own CANDUs and conduct their own R&D in the future.
The arrangement is unprecedented, but Dr. Bradley feels that business plans must change to suit the times, and that the scale of the potential market justifies the change.