China to build nuclear plant in Africa

China wants to help build nuclear power generation in East Africa, uranium mining and investment company IBI Corp said in a statement after meeting Chinese officials in Beijing, revealing China's undimmed appetite for overseas nuclear expansion despite the Japanese nuclear crisis this year.\r\n

IBI, which has uranium-prospective land in Uganda, said its director, AJ Coffman, held an “encouraging meeting… with the relatively new umbrella organisation overseeing China’s research and development of Generation 3 and Generation 4 nuclear power plant designs.”

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“At the meeting, this entity expressed an interest in pursuing nuclear power plant construction in East Africa.”

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China is in the early stages of a massive nuclear power expansion to help meet the demands of its power-guzzling economy and to weaken the grip of coal as the dominant source of fuel.

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Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and the ensuing nuclear crisis have threatened to put cracks in China’s own plans, with the government ordering a halt to further nuclear approvals until it had inspected the existing reactors and construction sites.

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China’s ambitious domestic nuclear expansion is widely expected to march ahead, although talk of the sector growing to between 80 GW and 90 GW by 2020 may give way to a target of between 70 GW and 75 GW. Still, that is a giant leap from China’s existing nuclear capacity, which amounted to 10,8 GW, at the end of 2010.

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Some of China’s new plants will use “third generation” reactors, using technology from France’s Areva and US-based Westinghouse, part of Toshiba Corp. But later their technology will be transferred to China, enabling it to build third generation plants in its own right.

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Currently there are no nuclear plants in East Africa, and only one country on the continent, South Africa, has nuclear power.

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China already has some early-stage interests in uranium in Africa. The overseas arm of China National Nuclear Corp has a 37,2% stake in a uranium mine in Niger that began producing on December 30, 2010, as well as exploration projects in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

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Another state-owned company, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp , earlier this month withdrew a bid for UK-listed Kalahari Minerals, which holds 43% of Extract Resources, owner of Namibia’s Husab project, potentially the world’s second-biggest uranium mine.

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The Chinese firm, which withdrew its $1,2-billion bid after regulators refused to let it cut its offer in the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear disaster, is considering whether to come back with a fresh offer.

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Edited by: Reuters