A planned civilian nuclear deal between
The units would be built at
The deal is controversial because the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which
The 46-member NSG is not a formal organization; its export guidelines are nonbinding.
Reiterating the position the United States has held since mid-2010 (see ACT, June 2010), Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake told reporters in Beijing March 18, “We expect China to abide by the commitments that it made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, and in particular we think the construction of new nuclear reactors such as the Chasma 3 and 4 would be inconsistent with those commitments,” according to a Department of State transcript.
“We’ve been very clear in the Nuclear Suppliers Group context about that position, but we’ve also been very clear on the need to support
In a March 23 e-mail to Arms Control Today, another State Department official drew a distinction between the IAEA and the NSG in the context of the deal. The
Waiting for Information
According to the official, the
The NSG discussed the matter last year during its plenary meeting in
Some observers have said the
In a March 14 interview, a European diplomat said many countries are “uneasy” about the situation, as they do not believe the planned reactor is covered by the grandfathering agreement. As the diplomat noted,
“We would be very interested in the Chinese arguments,” the diplomat said, adding that
“We are really struggling with this issue,” the diplomat said.
In a March 29 interview, a State Department official said, “Everything [the Chinese] have said would indicate that [the deal] is going forward.”
Some current and former diplomats have begun thinking about how to salvage from the deal “an outcome that would be kind of positive,” as the European diplomat put it. For example, the diplomat said, the NSG could press for a Chinese commitment that was “more explicit” than the one in 2004 in stating that
In March 29 remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Washington, John Carlson, the former director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, said NSG members could try to convince China to insist on high standards of safety and physical protection for the reactors. Appearing on the same panel, Henk Cor van der Kwast, head of the Non-Proliferation, Disarmament, Arms Control and Export Control Policy Division in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “We don’t know how this question will go.” If the sale does take place, one possibility is a Chinese declaration making certain commitments, along the lines of the one that
The third panelist, Richard Goorevich, a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, commented, “When it comes to building nuclear reactors, it’s really not a done deal until it’s actually done.”
After the panel, he said he was not referring to a particular current obstacle. Reactor construction is a “laborious, complicated thing” and could be stalled by issues such as financing or, in
In his panel comments, he also said that, in the NSG, there is an “aspect of transparency with regards to each other’s nuclear cooperation,” and that is what would be discussed with