The United States' tightening control on exports to China of components required for nuclear power plants will have only a limited impact on the nation's nuclear energy sector, although it may affect the healthy development of the global nuclear industry chain, industry experts said.
China has been rapidly developing nuclear power plants in recent years amid its green energy transition, achieving substantial progress in domestic nuclear technologies, including Hualong One, the country's third-generation nuclear power tech with full intellectual property rights, said Lin Boqiang, head of the China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy at Xiamen University.
In addition to nuclear technology like Hualong One, Lin said most of the other equipment has also been produced locally in recent years. Hualong One is one of the most widely accepted series of third-generation nuclear power reactors globally at present.
While they may affect the global nuclear industry chain, export controls by the administration of US President Joe Biden will have little impact on China as domestic nuclear technology has already become the mainstay and its market share will only increase going forward, Lin said.
His remarks came after the Bureau of Industry and Security, an arm of the US Commerce Department, recently asked exporters to obtain specific licenses to export certain generators, containers and software intended for use in nuclear plants in China.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a US federal agency responsible for nuclear energy safety, also requires exporters to get specific licenses to export special nuclear as well as source material.
China's National Energy Administration has said previously that the localization rate of nuclear power equipment in China is currently more than 85 percent, with a large number of technological breakthroughs and achievements in domestic equipment research and development in recent years.
Two exports to China of regulated nuclear material occurred under a general license last year, Reuters reported.
The recent US requirements are "more symbolic than substantive", nonproliferation analyst Edwin Lyman of the nonprofit group, Union of Concerned Scientists was quoted as saying by Reuters. Lyman also expressed doubt over whether China's nuclear weapons program would be meaningfully impacted.
"China firmly upholds the international nonproliferation regime" and honors its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, said Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu in Washington, without offering specific comment on the US move.
He added that China opposes "putting geopolitical interests above nuclear nonproliferation efforts".
China National Nuclear Corp and China General Nuclear Power Corp did not respond to requests for comment.