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French Atmea Would Make Reactor ‘Credible’ Export, GDF Suez Says

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- GDF Suez SA, operator of seven nuclear reactors in Belgium, is keen to develop an Atmea reactor in France to increase the chances of exporting the technology as an alternative to the bigger EPR model.

“France needs a reactor in the middle range,” Chief Executive Officer Gerard Mestrallet told a parliamentary hearing in Paris today. “Trying to conquer world markets with just one product, the EPR, will be difficult because it’s high-end.”

Starting the process of authorizing development of an Atmea in France’s Rhone River Valley this year would be “in line” with Jordan’s planned tender for nuclear reactors, he said. The 1,000 megawatt Atmea, designed by Areva SA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan, has never been built.

Jordan plans to seek proposals for the construction and operation of as many as two reactors, Khalid Touqan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, said last month. GDF Suez was part of a French group including Areva, Electricite de France SA and Total SA that lost a bid in 2009 to develop EPRs in Abu Dhabi. The loss of the $20 billion order prompted a government report on the French nuclear industry and pledges by ministers to make the industry more competitive.

Developing an Atmea in France would render the reactor “more credible,” Mestrallet told French deputies today.

Touqan’s commission in Jordan pre-selected possible technologies from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Russia’s ZAO Atomstroyexport and the Atmea. GDF Suez and companies from Russia and Canada have expressed interest in operating them, Touqan said last month.

No More

French Industry Minister Eric Besson last week said current energy policy is for no more new reactors after completion of a 1,650-megawatt EPR in Penly in northern France.

GDF Suez last year pulled out of the Penly project that will be operated by EDF.

The government rejected GDF Suez’s proposal for EDF to lead development of the Penly EPR while it oversaw construction of an Atmea in the Rhone River Valley, Mestrallet said today. “If the two utilities were associated with both projects we could have maximized our chances on international markets.”

The largest portion of the global market is for reactors in the range of 1,000 megawatts like the Atmea, Mestrallet said, calling the EPR “very sophisticated, safe and complicated to build.”

The reactor model was as much as 40 percent too expensive compared with the winning South Korean bid in the Abu Dhabi tender, according to Mestrallet.

EPRs being developed by EDF in Normandy and Areva in Finland have run over budget and behind schedule.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at Tpatel2@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net.

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