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U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Technology Can Provide China Vast Amounts of Electricity, Improve Air Quality

WASHINGTON—China should rely on American commercial nuclear power plant technology to generate a portion of future electricity while protecting the nation’s air quality, U.S. industry and government officials said today.

Three U.S. nuclear power plant manufacturers-ABB Combustion Engineering, General Electric and Westinghouse-and the Nuclear Energy Institute are participating in the International Nuclear Industry Exhibition at China’s National Agricultural Exhibit Hall. Nuclear power plants designed and built by these companies are among the global leaders in efficiency and reliability, and U.S. companies and their strategic partners are prepared to work with Chinese manufacturers and research institutes to establish this U.S. technology base in China.

"The United States is the global leader in commercial reactor technology," said Joe F. Colvin, president and chief executive officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute, which coordinates public policy and regulatory issues for the nuclear industry in the United States. "All U.S. nuclear power plants offer China state-of-the-art technology in safety, reliability, and economic plant operation." A bilateral trade agreement for commercial nuclear power plant technology signed during the 1998 U.S.-China Summit-called a "win-win-win" agreement by President Clinton-has opened the world’s fastest-growing economy to the world’s preeminent nuclear power plant designs. U.S. design and manufacturing capabilities can help China reach the level of self-sufficiency that is appropriate to a major nuclear energy program.

"U.S. technology is the right choice for China," Colvin said. "Other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, have achieved self-sufficiency in nuclear power programs through technology transfers and partnerships with U.S. suppliers. There is an opportunity for a similarly effective partnership between Chinese and the U.S. nuclear industries-combined with technological and economic advantages of U.S. nuclear power plant designs."

China is considering the role that nuclear power plants will play in its 10th five-year plan for energy supply. The reasons for incorporating nuclear power plants in the national energy policy plan are similar in many respects to what motivated the United States to develop nuclear energy as its second-leading producer of electricity. Since the Mideast oil embargoes of the 1970s, the United States has essentially replaced the use of oil in the electricity sector with nuclear power, providing enhanced energy diversity and security as well as clean air benefits. Nuclear power plants have been one of the most successful methods to improve air quality in and around major U.S. cities.

The United States has more than 40 years of experience in operating the largest fleet of nuclear plants in the world-103 nuclear reactors, or about one-fourth of the world total. Ongoing sharing of information among plant operators and designers has led to more than a 10-fold improvement in all measures of plant safety during the past 20 years. Today, the vast majority of the world’s 50 best operating nuclear power plants are based on U.S. reactor technology. In the United States alone, nuclear power generates 20 percent of all electricity or about 725 billion kilowatt-hours in 1999.

In addition, because nuclear power plants emit no air pollution, the use of nuclear energy is becoming even more important to meet national and international clean air commitments. In fact, improved efficiency at nuclear power plants in 1998 accounted for nearly half of all voluntary greenhouse gas reductions (100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) by U.S. business and industry, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

"These significant reductions in carbon and smog-causing emissions are compelling evidence of nuclear energy’s clean air value. Nuclear energy plays a vital role for the United States and other growing, energy-intensive economies, such as China, in fulfilling both electricity needs and clean air concerns," Colvin said.


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at