Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Shanghai in May 2014, signing an historic gas supply agreement (ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia and China forge new nuclear power partnership

12 August 2014 | By Rod Sweet 0 Comments

Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, has been invited to build two nuclear power plant units in China. 

News of the nuclear cooperation follows the two countries’ historic gas-supply agreement signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Shanghai in May this year (pictured).

China also wants to learn from Russia how to build nuclear reactors that float on barges.

Although China is the world leader in nuclear new-build, with 28 reactors under construction last year, it builds plants in coastal areas and lacks expertise in building nuclear stations inland.

According to Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, Russian expertise will help China bring nuclear to its vast interior.

The two new, land-based plants are being considered for the city of Harbin, in northeastern Heilongjiang province, Xinhua reported on Monday.

Gennady Sakharov, deputy director-general of Rosatom, said on Thursday last week that a delegation would soon go to Harbin to assess the construction site, ITAR-TASS reported.

“We have received an offer,” Sakharov said, adding: “this is a new project and there will be two units.”

“We know that the government of China has plans to build nuclear power plants in inner regions that are badly in need of electricity,” said Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko in June this year, according to ITAR-TASS.

“Russia has unique experience and is one of the few countries that have the extensive experience of building and operating nuclear power plants in inner regions of the country. And we are ready to share our experience with our Chinese partners."

Artist’s render of Russia’s floating nuclear power plant, the “Akademik Lomonosov”

In the tally of nuclear projects under construction around the world, China tops the list with 28 while Russia comes a distant second with nine, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

India and South Korea have seven and five under construction respectively, while the US trails with three.

The IAEA says that just over 42% of all nuclear new build in the world is happening right now in China.

The tie-up with Russia signals China’s intention to deepen its commitment to nuclear energy, and its willingness to work with Russia at a time when that country is becoming increasingly isolated from the West over its actions in Ukraine.

ITAR-TASS reported that, also in June, Rusatom Overseas (a branch of Rosatom) and one of China’s top nuclear developers, CNNC New Energy, signed a memorandum of understanding for building floating nuclear power plants.

Russia is leading the approach of putting small reactors on barges. It is currently building a twin-reactor nuclear power plant it calls the “Akademik Lomonosov”, after the 18th Century Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov. Its two reactors, each capable of generating 150 MW of heat and 38.5 MW of electricity, could power a city of 200,000 people, says Russia’s RT.com.

The barge displaces 21,500 tonnes and has to be towed. Its developers say it can withstand earthquakes and terrorist bombs, and would be useful for powering remote settlements or offshore oil and gas facilities.

ITAR-TASS reports that a Chinese delegation travelled to the Floating NPP Training Centre and the Baltic Shipyard – where the “Akademik Lomonosov” is being built – in July.