Globe and Mail
October 23, 2001
On visit to controversial reactor project, Chrétien urges China to buy some more.
QINSHAN, CHINA — Prime Minister Jean Chrétien urged China yesterday to buy more Canadian nuclear reactors even though a previous order is embroiled in a lengthy lawsuit filed by an environmental group.
At the end of a four-day visit to China where he attended a summit of Pacific Rim leaders, Mr. Chrétien toured a site in Qinshan, 125 kilometres southeast of Shanghai, where two Candu nuclear reactors are being built by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
The deal to build the reactors, sold on Mr. Chrétien’s first trade mission to China and signed when he visited again two years later, has come under attack from the Sierra Club of Canada, which charges that the government violated its own environmental-assessment laws.
The $1.2-billion deal went ahead in 1996 without the public environmental-impact assessment usually required by law, after the government issued regulations exempting foreign sales from the impact studies. The Sierra Club sued, alleging the government broke the law.
At the time, AECL said it expected to sell up to four more reactors to China, but no new deals have been struck since the Qinshan contract was signed in 1996. That agreement, which calls for the reactors to be completed in 2003, was financed largely by Canada, through a $1.2-billion loan from the Export Development Corp.
In a speech at the site attended by Chinese provincial officials and nuclear power executives, Mr. Chrétien pressed for more Candu sales, suggesting that was part of the deal with former premier Li Peng.
“When I signed the official contract in 1996, the prime minister and I agreed that if this project was to be a success, it was to open up a door for many more in years to come,” he said. Mr. Chrétien also suggested in his speech he considers the deal his baby.