China has set itself the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060 in order to reduce carbon emissions. To do this, it will increase its dependence on renewable energies and non-fossil energies, a large part of which is nuclear. China will build two reactors, the first of which is under construction. It can be used for energy in 2023 and another in 2026. The island of Changbiao where this reactor under construction is being built has recently been the subject of discussions. The reason is that China has not maintained transparency in its work on nuclear energy in recent years and has stopped sharing data.
What’s China’s plan?
China is building this CFR-600 sodium-cooled fast neutron nuclear reactor here. It will produce plutonium which will be reprocessed to produce fuel for other nuclear reactors. Al-Jazeera’s report states that it can also be used to make nuclear weapons. The report says no foreigner can say whether Chinese authorities are using plutonium to provide power to civilians or to deliver nuclear weapons to the country, except for companies studying the project.
Why doubt China?
In fact, this issue was debated because a US official accused China of postponing bilateral negotiations to reduce the nuclear threat. China has stopped storing stocks of plutonium for civilian use at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 2017, and the agency’s database does not mention the reactors. At present, China has between 300 and 350 nuclear warheads according to estimates.
Use of plutonium elsewhere?
Frank Von Hippel, co-founder and senior research physicist at Princeton University’s Science and Global Security program, says IAEA members sometimes delay reporting, but China’s lack of transparency worries governments and experts of the whole world. Vaughan and his colleagues claimed in a research paper that China could produce 1,270 weapons by 2030 with the help of this nuclear program. If China were to use more pure uranium or uranium-plutonium composite cores in bombs and missiles, then this danger would increase even more.
Costly method, why trust again?
The report says 4.9% of China’s energy comes from nuclear sources. It is planned to increase it to 13% by 2070. China aims to install a capacity of 70 GW by 2025, which is currently 51 GW. There are currently 50 nuclear reactors in China, 14 conventional reactors are under construction. However, other experts, including Vaughan, say it has been observed in other countries that reprocessing is not the right way to use nuclear power at a cost. In such a situation, why China pays attention to it is a big question. Experts fear that China actually wants to reap two benefits from these reactors.