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Thursday, June 4, 2009

China eyes Sanmen nuclear plant expansion end-2011


Thu Jun 4, 2009 2:34am EDT

SANMEN, China, June 4 (Reuters) - China hopes to start building the next phase of its Sanmen nuclear plant by the end of 2011, the head of the project company said on Thursday. Sanmen in Zhejiang province, near Shanghai, is one of two sites in China where Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba Corp (6502.T), and the Shaw Group (SGR.N) are building the first of their AP1000 reactors, so-called "third generation" nuclear plants.

The firms have started building the first phase -- two of a total planned six AP1000 reactors -- and expect it to start operating in 2013.

"There's some preparations and contracts to sign, but we hope to be launching construction of the second phase by the end of 2011," Gu Jun, general manager of China National Nuclear Corp Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant, told reporters at the site.

The consortium is building the plant under a technology transfer programme. China -- which wants to be in a position to build AP1000 reactors on its own by 2020 -- expects to complete the final phase without foreign help.

"We hope that units 5 and 6 will be built by ourselves," Gu said.

Westinghouse's AP1000 technology rivals the "third generation" design of Areva SA (CEPFi.PA), the European Pressurised Reactor, which is also being built in China.

Both firms are hoping their technology will become the favourite as countries across the world turn to nuclear as a reliable source of energy with low emissions.

China is leading the charge into nuclear power as it tries to wean itself off cheap but dirty coal. It has 11 working reactors capable of producing 9.07 gigawatts but wants to have 60-70 GW by 2020, about 5 percent of the total anticipated capacity.

As well as its two sites in China, Westinghouse says it has been picked to provide technology for 14 planned U.S. plants and last week said it would start talks with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India to deploy AP1000 technology there.

Areva's deputy president in China, Eric Neisse, told Reuters in an interview last month that Westinghouse's plants posed more risks than its own EPR. Its plant at Taishan in Guangdong province will be the third it has built, following projects in France and Finland. [ID:nPEK184789]

But Sanmen project manager Gu was confident about the AP1000.

"It's true that Areva's EPR is more mature than AP1000, but AP1000 has gone through a lot of R&D," he said.

"We have considered all factors: safety, cost, technology. And while there is some risk (in using untested technology), we believe the problems can be solved quickly during the construction process."


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