China-USA cooperation agreement renewed

10 November 2015

A new agreement formalizing nuclear cooperation between China and the USA and establishing the terms for nuclear trade between the countries has entered into force. The agreement replaces a previous version which had been due to expire at the end of the year.

Bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements - often referred to as 123 agreements, as they are required under subsection 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954 - are a prerequisite for nuclear trade and materials transfer between the US and any other country. They provide a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation as well as permitting the transfer of material, equipment (including reactors), components, information, and technology for nuclear research and nuclear power production.

President Barack Obama approved the renewal of the agreement in April, sending it before the US Congress for review. The agreement has now entered into force after completing its mandatory review over a total period of 90 days continuous session by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The existing US-China agreement was enacted in 1985, covering a 30-year period. Its renewal means that projects such as Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor exports, which use many US-based suppliers, as well as US-Chinese nuclear collaborations can continue unimpeded.

The US nuclear industry, through the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), has previously urged Congress to approve the renewal. The institute's vice president for suppliers and international programs, Daniel Lipman, welcomed its entry into force, saying: "The nuclear energy industry applauds the renewal of the US-China agreement for nuclear energy cooperation." The direct economic benefit to the country from the renewed agreement is expected to be between $70 billion and $204 billion in the period to 2040, he said.

China currently has 22 reactors under construction, with work to start on many more. The first of four Westinghouse AP1000s under construction in China, Sanmen 1, is expected to start up next year. The AP1000 design has been standardized for many of China's planned nuclear power plants and work is expected to begin on a further 13 reactors by 2017, NEI noted. "The continued US presence in China's nuclear energy market and China's adoption of US technology and operating plant exchanges will deepen its relationship with the United States and advance international nuclear safety practices," Lipman said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News