But, as the State Council decree and accident in Japan show, safety remains the key concern for nuclear power. "Nuclear has very tight quality requirements," Candris notes. "For some of those [critical equipment like forgings, pumps and valves] they are having some problems meeting those stringent quality specifications. They have asked us to support them with that equipment, and we have been able to do that."
This is not a problem restricted to China. In 2008 the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission found fake and possibly faulty valves, pipes and electrical breakers—those not actually verified to stand up to the rigors posed by an operating reactor—at two nuclear facilities in the U.S.
NDRC officials have warned that building too many reactors too fast could pose safety risks. Already, the former head of CNNC, Kang Rixin, will spend the rest of his life in prison due to corruption related to the unparalleled nuclear power plant expansion, which may call into question the safety of the materials used. After all, the first reactor built at Qinshan back in 1990—the first reactor ever designed and constructed entirely by the Chinese—had to be torn down and rebuilt because of faults in the foundation as well as defects in the welding of the steel vessel that contained the reactor itself.
"To secure nuclear safety is the lifeline in this industry," CNNC's Hua said. "We are all family members in the nuclear industry."
Editor's Note: Some of the reporting for this feature took place as a result of a Jefferson Fellowship from the East–West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.