Areva’s Chinese Reactors Nearing Completion

The French state-owned firm, which has been buffeted by bad financial reports,
finally has some good news

AREVA LOGOTwo 1650 MW being built by Areva, EDF, and China General Nuclear (CGN) at Taishan, China, are slated to be complete in the next 12-15 months. The first unit is expected to finish by December 2015 and the second a few months later. Work on the reactors was started in 2012. A spokesman for CGN said the firm wants to see the first unit fully commissioned and in revenue service before placing any more orders for reactors from Areva.

In the meantime, CGN and its partner China National Nuclear Corp., are still planning to take a combined 30-40% equity stake in the twin Areva EPRs to be built at the UK Hinkley Point site. The project is estimated to cost $24 billion including balance of plant and regional electrical infrastructure to get the power to customers.

Areva is also in talks with Chinese nuclear firms about its 1,100 MW Atmea nuclear reactor which it has developed with Mitsibishi Heavy Industries (MHI). The Atmea has seen some market acceptance with a contract to build four of them at Sinop, a site on the Black Sea, in Turkey.

EDF to take stake in Areva

It has been an article of faith for years that despite occasional differences at the CEO level, the future of Areva and EDF are closely linked. These links will become even more specific with a plan for EDF to take an equity stake in some of Areva’s projects providing a much needed infusion of capital. 

Areva is expected to formally announce the arrangement at a March 4 meeting where it will unveil a financial recovery strategy. The firm is deeply in debt, has been selling assets, and cancelled projects. Its bonds were downgraded by securities rating services last year below investment grade.

Both Areva and EDF are state-owned corporations with in excess of 80% of the stock held by the government. Institutional investors hold the remaining equity. Areva’s new Chairman Phillippe Varin was recently made a member of the EDF board. Areva’s new CEO Jean-Bernard Levy is pursuing new business for the EDF/Areva combine in China.

Chinese nuclear firms to merge

While Areva has been digging itself out of a financial hole, and hawking its wares in China, several mergers of Chinese nuclear firms are moving closer to being deals. China Power Investment Corp is said to be planning a merger with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp.  Also, China National Nuclear Corp is reported to be planning a merger with China General Nuclear.

These mergers will match equity investment capabilities with nuclear expertise and position both combined firms to pursue export deals. China has been successful in developing a new 1000 MW reactor which is positioned for global markets.  Domestically, it has four Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000 reactors under construction with more planned for coastal sites.

China has also been successful in negotiating for intellectual property rights related to the Ap1000 to the design for power ratings about 1350 MW.  Two designs, one for 1400 MW and another for 1700 MW, are reported to be coming off the drawing boards.

China has 26 reactors under construction with 22 in operation. State approval of the start of construction of five new units is expected in the near-term.

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