US technology “immature and unproven” – China nuclear source

BEIJING, June 19 — A design adjustment by a key bidder in China’s US$2.9 billion (RMB22.7 billion) Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Plant may delay the award of the contract until next year, according to a source in the Economic Observer and reported by MarketWatch here.

According to the source, US firm Westinghouse – recently approved for takeover by Japanese Toshiba – delivered a new bid which moved certain components from the nuclear section of the plant to the conventional section, thereby increasing Westinghouse’s share of the conventional plant construction. The source said China is capable of producing the conventional section by itself and regards Westinghouse’s technology as immature and unproven.

Other bidders too may be falling away according to the newspaper – France’s Areva and Russia’s AtomStroyExport were originally quoted as bidding alongside Westinghouse – but the Economic Observer says Russia’s AtomStroyExport, which operates under the umbrella of Russia’s atomic energy agency, was out of the bidding list because its technology did not meet China’s requirements.

It also said the technology of Areva is also regarded as unproven, as the first nuclear plant using its technology won’t be in operation until 2009.

Areva (previously known as Framatome) has supplied Daya Bay and Ling’ao nuclear power plants, while the remainder of China’s nuclear fleet is built domestically (Qinshan units 1-3) or by Canada’s CANDU (Qinshan units 4 & 5).

There has even been some industry talk that China may come up with some of the technology itself to lower costs, said the newspaper.

Domestically, companies such as China First Heavy Industries, China National Erzhong Group Corporation, Harbin Power Equipment Corporation, Dongfang Electric Corporation would be in the running to supply technology to China’s new nuclear plant.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) stressed its nuclear targets in early June. Zhang Guobao, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission said on June 8 that although China’s plan to increase its nuclear power installed capacity to 40GW by 2020 “may be difficult to meet,” the target has not changed.

Zhang said the target will require China to build some 32 nuclear power units, each capable of generating at least 1GW, over the next 15 years.

China presently has nine nuclear generators in commercial operation with a total capacity of about 7GW.

About James Ockenden (226 Articles)
A writer covering international energy and power markets since 1996
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