Nuclear Power on the Rise in Asia

Nuclear power is booming in Asia, thanks to rapidly escalating energy needs and concerns over widespread air pollution from coal-fired plants. Eighteen of the 31 nuclear plants currently under construction in the world are being built on the continent. The boom is largely being driven by India and China, Asia’s two most populous countries, where currently between 1 and 4 percent of energy comes from nuclear, compared to 35 to 40 percent in Japan and South Korea. The billions of dollars swirling around Asian nuclear plants have western suppliers drooling, particularly those in Canada and Europe. Currently, U.S. firms are barred from providing some nuclear technology to certain Asian countries, including China, but that prohibition is expected to be lifted in September. In fact, on a three-day visit to China next week, Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to shill for U.S. nuclear supplier Westinghouse. Some critics, citing China’s plans to help Pakistan build two nuclear reactors that could produce plutonium, say Cheney’s big-business advocacy flies in the face of U.S. efforts to encourage non-proliferation.