The argument that they would definitely put a nuclear reactor in CV-18 if they could only follows if there are no reasons not go with nuclear if the option is available. We know that not to be true. There are plenty of reasons to not go nuclear even if the option is available. Hendrick did speculate that it was primarily cost, but that is not a unreasonable rationale.It's definitely not "ship design". CV-18 is a new ship design, and if a nuclear reactor was ready for that ship and the PLAN wanted a nuclear carrier, it would have been on that ship. The Charles De Gaulle is 43,000 tons full and is a nuclear carrier, so it's not a matter of size either. "Program lead time" is essentially the same as technological ability in that the technology is not ready for CV-18 which has been my point this entire time, whereas Hendrick thinks the choice of conventional for CV-18 was a matter of cost not technology. "Requirement mismatch" could be argued, though I did already address this point by saying that perhaps nuclear carriers are not in the PLAN's future plans. The argument that the PLAN did not require nuclear carriers currently was also addressed by me earlier.
When I said program lead time I was referring to planning and design of the entire ship relative to intended timetables. Sometimes features you could deploy get dropped or changed because of deadlines. There's more to deciding the technology in any project than the "can we do it" question.