Areva CEO Says Japan May Restart Two-Thirds of Nuclear Reactors

Areva SA, the French maker of nuclear reactors, wants to boost safety-equipment sales as the company expects Japan to restart two-thirds of its atomic plants that were idled after the 2011 Fukushima accident.

Half a dozen reactors may restart by the end of this year in addition to the two that resumed operations in 2012, Areva Chief Executive Officer Luc Oursel said at a press conference near Paris today. “I think two-thirds of reactors will restart” within several years.

Safety authorities are reviewing each site and the work carried out by operators, Oursel said. Areva expects 200 million euros ($260 million) in orders for safety equipment and services this year, up from 150 million euros in 2012, as nuclear operators worldwide respond to demands for higher security from regulators, the CEO said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet last week he will reopen Japan’s reactors, which once supplied about a third of the country’s electricity, even as the approaching second anniversary of the March 11 quake and subsequent tsunami stir memories of the worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century.

Areva, which used to supply fuel for Japanese plants before the Fukushima accident, has since sold equipment that transforms hydrogen into water to prevent explosions in case of severe accident, Oursel said. Paris-based Areva and partner Kobe Steel Ltd. have also sold storage casks for spent fuel from the Fukushima reactors to Tokyo Electric Power Co.

“If plants restart as we hope, Japan will recoup a significant place” in Areva’s revenue, Oursel said.

Altogether, Areva is working on 85 safety-enhancement projects with 42 nuclear power producers in 16 countries, Oursel said. It will also seek to help operators extend the lifetime of their plants, the CEO said.