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US-China nuclear agreement on track

An agreement allowing American involvement in China's civilian atomic industry is set to be renewed for 30 years despite some stiff criticism from lawmakers over the Asian nation's record on nuclear proliferation.

A 90-day congressional review period expired on Friday without legislative action or a joint resolution to block or alter the agreement. The State Department says the US and China will decide "a suitable time in the near future" when the agreement will enter into force.

The current 30-year agreement expires at the end of the year. The Obama administration has warned that ending US-China nuclear cooperation would be devastating to the US nuclear industry and would hurt bilateral relations and diminish American leverage on non-proliferation and nuclear safety.

China has the world's fastest-growing atomic industry. Four American-designed reactors worth $US8 billion ($A10.99 billion) are under construction in China, and dozens more are planned or proposed that, industry advocates say, could support tens of thousands of US jobs.

Daniel Lipman, vice president at the Nuclear Energy Institute, says he's pleased the agreement is "almost complete". He says China will be the single largest market for US nuclear technology, goods and services for the foreseeable future.

Both Republicans and Democrats, particularly in the Senate, have aired concerns that US civilian nuclear technology may have been adapted for use in Chinese nuclear submarines, which is forbidden by the agreement.

Despite some improvements in the Chinese government's record on nuclear non-proliferation since the 1990s, Chinese entities, including those facing US sanctions, are still accused of transferring sensitive military technology to Iran and North Korea. China has also decided to help build more power reactors in Pakistan, although the country's facilities are not under international safeguards.

China has had the bomb for 50 years and has a stockpile of perhaps 250 weapons.

The US has forged civilian nuclear pacts with two dozen countries - including its other main strategic rival, Russia.