I have been focusing lately on the Chinese nuclear power program. They only have seventeen nuclear reactors but they intend to have almost ten times as many reactors built by 2030. In this post, I am going to discuss one of the major institutions in the Chinese nuclear industry.
The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) was created in 1988 as a successor to the Ministry of Nuclear Industry which built the first nuclear reactors, nuclear submarines and nuclear bombs for China. The Chinese government wanted to reduce the reliance of the Chinese nuclear program on the government for financial support. The CNNC was encouraged to engage in export of Chinese nuclear technology in order to acquire foreign hard currency for the purchase of foreign nuclear technology. The mission statement for the CNNC states that the CNNC "combines military nuclear weapons production with civilian production, taking nuclear industry as the basis while developing nuclear power and promoting a diversified economy."
The CNNC is a private corporation that has also functioned as a governmental department that oversees nuclear work in China including manufacturers, research institutes, nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons work. It is involved in designing and operating nuclear power plants, processing uranium to create nuclear fuel, reprocessing spent fuel and disposing on nuclear waste. There were over one hundred subsidiary organizations that were part of the CNNC when it was created. Within two years of its creation, the CNNC had established relationships with over one hundred companies in forty countries. By the middle of the 1990s, the CNNC had grown to the point where it comprised over two hundred subsidiaries with over three hundred thousand employees. It had a virtual monopoly on all nuclear work in China.
By the year 2000, there were increasing calls for reforms and competition in the nuclear industry. In 2004, the Chinese State Council created the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation to work on bids from foreign corporations to develop and build advanced Generation III nuclear reactors for power generation in China. The CNNC continued to support the construction of the CPN-1000 pressurized water reactors designed by Shanghai Nuclear Energy Research & Design Institute in China.
In 2009, the president of the CNNC was investigated for losing two hundred and sixty million dollars in the stock market that was supposed to be used to build three nuclear power plants. He was also accused of accepting bribes from foreign companies that were going to build nuclear reactors in China. He lost his job and was
I mentioned in a prior post how a uranium processing facility that was being planned by the CNNC for the southern Chinese city of Heshan was recently cancelled because of public protests. Environmental concerns over development projects have often triggered public protest which are a great concern to the government.
The CNNC has great power over the Chinese nuclear power program and it has been tainted by corruption at the highest level. The idea of bribes to foreign companies building nuclear reactors is especially troublesome because they might not do the best work. The Heshan project cancellation shows that the CNNC is not paying enough attention to the people in the areas where projects are being planned and this could lead to social unrest. I am afraid that I lack confidence that the CNNC can safely construct and operate the enormous fleet of new reactors that China has planned.
China National Nuclear Corporation logo: