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Nuclear talks delayed over disagreements
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-02 06:07

A final decision on which foreign companies will be invited to build four third-generation nuclear reactors in Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces might be postponed until the first half of next year.

This is because of a disagreement about the technology to be used and the price, according to insiders.

"It is unlikely that the talks will be finalized by the end of this year as originally planned," Chen Hua, a director from the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), yesterday told China Daily.

The Chinese Government has approved the building of two nuclear plants in Sanmen in East China's Zhejiang Province, and in Yangjiang, South China's Guangdong Province.

Each will have two 1,000-megawatt (MW) reactors and use advanced third-generation technology.

Up to now, bidders involved in the talks include Paris-based Areva, Pittsburgh-based but UK-owned Westinghouse Electric Company and Russia's AtomStroyExport.

None of these have been able to reach an agreement with CNNC, which is behind the building of the plants, said Chen.

"These companies haven't given us satisfactory proposals on many key technical details, such as engineering and plant security," the CNNC director said. "Their price offers are still much higher than what we have budgeted for."

The final decision will be delayed, he said, refusing to disclose the bid prices from these companies.

"It is hard to say exactly when (the talks will be completed), but we hope to finalize them in the first half of next year," he said.

Because of the prolonged negotiations, the construction schedule will also suffer delays, the director yesterday told China Daily.

"It now seems improbable that construction (of the two nuclear plants) will start at the end of 2007 as we originally planned," he said.

The company most likely to win the bid at the moment is Areva or Westinghouse, Chen said. "We haven't talked much with the Russians."

An official from the preparatory office of the State Power Technology Corporation of China (SNPTC), who refused to be named, yesterday echoed Chen's comments.

He said the talks were proceeding much slower than previously expected, with problems over "price and technology."

SNPTC has been authorized to hold talks with Areva, Westinghouse and AtomStroyExport.

Both Areva and Westinghouse yesterday declined to comment.

CNNC's Chen yesterday also denied a recent media report that the French and US-based companies would be awarded one project each.

"We will not use different technologies at the two plants," he said.

China has used nuclear technologies from France, Canada and Russia in building its nuclear plants in Guangdong and Zhejiang.

If Westinghouse wins the contract, the project will be the first in the Chinese nuclear power sector for the US unit of State-owned British Nuclear Fuels Plc, which designs half the world's nuclear reactors.

The country will spend 400 billion yuan (US$48.33 billion) building new nuclear power plants by 2020.

This will increase the amount of installed nuclear power capacity from the current 16 gigawatts (GW) to 40 GW or 4 per cent of the total installed capacity within 15 years, Kang Rixin, president of CNNC, said in June.

This ambitious goal will translate into another 30 or so 1,000-MW units in China by 2020.

The country currently has 19 reactors in operation, under construction or having received central government approval.

(China Daily 12/02/2005 page9)

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