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    Firm offers new concept
Xiao Xie
2004-05-27 06:41

Aiming to play an integral role in China's extensive nuclear power construction programme, a French conglomerate is trying to convince the Chinese Government to accept its comprehensive organizational concept.

The promotion comes at a time when China is preparing to define its long-term nuclear industry development plan.

Electricity de France (EDF) is promoting its Architecture Engineering (AE) format that requires integrated business entities to work as the designer, constructor and operator of nuclear plants.

Most of the existing nuclear power plants in China are much more like turn-key projects, in which reactor designers and vendors decided on the procurement and construction details and handed the projects over to Chinese operators.

"I think this is the wrong organizational structure," Herve Machenaud, president of EDF's Asia-Pacific Branch, told China Daily. "The design, operation and procurement should be linked."

He said the separation hinders operators from mastering the technology, finding the technology flaws in time and reducing costs.

The advantage of a streamlined process is that once there is a problem, it can be traced back to the design as well as equipment procurement to find the problem, Machenaud said.

The operator, also working as the owner, constructor and designer, can adjust the design and equipment.

In addition, the AE mode allows the owner to decide on a uniform industrial policy, including defining the fabrication, specification and qualification of equipment, where to source the equipment and how much material is needed.

"It is the best way for China, because China wants to control the technology and industrial policy and define the procurement," said Machenaud. "In a turn-key operation, you don't control or master."

China has already developed and started to master some nuclear power technology thanks to the experience accumulated in the operation of existing nuclear power plants.

Machenaud said China should improve the existing technology and then design the next-generation by itself.

But to do this, China has to define its own policy, which is where the AE structure will be helpful, he added.

Another advantage of AE is that when operators control procurement, construction costs are reduced.

"In turn-key projects, there is only competition between the turn-key vendors, but no competition elsewhere," Machenaud said.

He said nuclear plants in France were 30 per cent less expensive compared to those in other countries in recent years thanks to the unique AE setup.

The operation and maintenance costs are also much less than elsewhere.

Machenaud said EDF hopes to be involved in the development of China's nuclear industry as the nation will build more nuclear plants than anywhere else in coming years.

"We want to be in partnership with Chinese producers to give them our experiences and take the accumulated experience back to France," he said.

(China Daily 05/27/2004 page11)