China to build nuclear reactors in Pakistan

BEIJING - China has agreed to build two new civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan, a report said Thursday, amid persistent concerns about the safety of nuclear materials in the restive south Asian state.

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Published: Thu 29 Apr 2010, 1:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:36 AM

Chinese companies will build at least two new 650-megawatt reactors at Chashma in Punjab province, the Financial Times said.

China began building a reactor at Chashma in 1991 and broke ground on a second one in 2005, which is expected to be completed next year, it said.

A statement posted on the website of the China National Nuclear Corporation on March 1 said financing for two new reactors at Chashma was agreed by the two sides in February.

A spokeswoman for the corporation, which oversees China’s civilian and military nuclear programmes, said she was unaware of the deal when contacted by AFP on Thursday.

“Our Chinese brothers have once again lived up to our expectations,” the Financial Times quoted an unidentified Pakistani official as saying of the deal, which would help Pakistan cope with a crippling energy crisis.

“They have agreed to continue cooperating with us in the nuclear energy field.”

US President Barack Obama convened a summit in Washington earlier in April that pledged renewed world efforts to secure and safeguard fissile materials from falling into the hands of militant groups.

At the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Beijing “firmly” opposed atomic weapons proliferation, while backing civilian uses.

Reports have said Washington is concerned over the security of nuclear materials in troubled Pakistan, where the Taliban movement is waging a bloody offensive.

In 2004 Abdul Qadeer Khan — revered by many Pakistanis as the father of the country’s atomic bomb — confessed to sending nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks.

Washington is currently seeking Chinese support for new sanctions on Iran over the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear programme.

The Financial Times quoted an expert as saying China likely felt emboldened to go ahead with the deal after the United States signed a civilian nuclear agreement with Pakistan’s arch-rival India in 2008.

The agreement facilitated nuclear cooperation between the world’s two biggest democracies despite India’s refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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