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Center Is Interested in Facilitating Construction of Plants

According to uranium mining and investment company IBI Corp, China wants to help build nuclear power generation in East Africa. Evidently China's appetite for overseas nuclear expansion is undiminished despite the Japanese nuclear crisis this year. IBI, which has uranium-prospective land in Uganda, held an "encouraging meeting... with the relatively new umbrella organization overseeing China's research and development of Generation 3 and Generation 4 nuclear power plant designs. At the meeting, this entity expressed an interest in pursuing nuclear power plant construction in East Africa."

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. 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.

China's ambitious domestic nuclear expansion is widely expected to march ahead, although talk of the sector growing to 80-90 gigawatts by 2020 may give way to a target of 70-75 GW. Still, that is a giant leap from China's existing nuclear capacity, which amounted to 10.8 GW, at the end of 2010.

Some of China's new plants will use "third generation" reactors, using technology from France's Areva and U.S.-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.

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

China already has some early-stage interests in uranium in Africa. The overseas arm of China National Nuclear Corp has a 37.2 percent stake in a uranium mine in Niger that began producing on December 30, 2010, as well as exploration projects in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

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