China, France ink $11.9b nuclear deal

Updated: 2007-11-26 14:32

Areva SA won an 8 billion euro ($11.9 billion) agreement from China to build nuclear reactors, a record for the French company, as the fastest-growing major economy diversifies energy supplies.

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co will order two nuclear reactors from the world's largest maker of the units, Areva Chief Executive Officer Anne Lauvergeon said in Beijing today during French president Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to the Chinese capital.

Guangdong Nuclear also gains access to 35 percent of production from Areva uranium unit UraMin Inc, she said.

Areva and Toshiba Corp's US-based Westinghouse Electric Co unit are competing to build as many as 26 reactors by 2020 as China turns to atomic energy to cut pollution and reliance on oil.  

"It is a balance that China is seeking between its relations with the US and France, by awarding them two separate plants," Zhou Bo, a senior analyst with Shanghai-based Shenyin & Wanguo Securities Co, said by phone today.

Westinghouse secured a US$5.3 billion order from China in July. That accord includes the supply of equipment and technology to build four reactors. China's energy demand is increasing, boosted by an economy that expanded 11.5 percent in the third quarter.

Electricite de France SA, Europe's largest power generator, will own 30 percent of two nuclear power reactors that Areva will build in the city of Taishan in southern China's Guangdong province. The two units are designed to operate until 2026, Lauvergeon said.

"It's a record contract," Lauvergeon said. "There will be technologies transferred in the ventures" to Areva's Chinese partner. Contracts for the accord were signed in Beijing today.

China needs to build two reactors a year to meet a target of getting four percent of its power supply from nuclear plants by 2020. China also wants to gain nuclear power expertise.

The reactors will each have capacity of 1,700 megawatts, Guangdong Nuclear said in a statement released in Beijing today.

The French and Chinese governments will sign a separate cooperation contract involving China National Nuclear Corp, the nation's biggest nuclear reactor builder, to study building a 15 billion-euro nuclear waste recycling facility in China, Lauvergeon said.

China, the world's largest energy consumer after the US, will increase its spending on nuclear power plants by 12.5 percent to 450 billion yuan during the 15 years ending 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, said November 2.

China now operates 11 reactors with a combined capacity of 8,700 megawatts, or 1.6 percent of the nation's total electricity capacity, Kang Rixin, president of China National Nuclear, said October 15.

Areva and China Guangdong Nuclear may change the location of two reactors proposed for southern China to fit in with the region's energy plans, Chu Pinchuang, senior engineer at the Chinese company said August 22. The reactors were planned for Yangjiang in the province of Guangdong.

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