EDF Says Saudi Partner Seeks Arbitration in Nuclear Dispute

Electricite de France SA, the biggest nuclear operator, said it’s locked in a dispute with Saudi Arabia’s Soroof International over the scope of an energy partnership.

Soroof, a trading company run by Bander Bin Abdullah Al-Saud, a member of the royal family, sought arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce last month, EDF said in a statement to Bloomberg News yesterday. The claim is “unfounded” and the utility will “defend its interests,” it said.

Soroof confirmed in an e-mailed statement today that it asked the arbitration court to rule on the dispute. It said it will seek compensation for “all damages incurred.”

The conflict comes as EDF and nuclear reactor builder Areva SA, which are both controlled by the French state, prepare for a tender in Saudi Arabia for the first in a series of planned atomic generators. EDF doesn’t agree with Soroof on whether their partnership includes provisions for development of atomic power.

EDF signed an agreement with Soroof in May 2010 to study possible cooperation for electricity transport and thermal generation, according to the French utility.

Soroof describes its joint venture with EDF as handling a wider range of power generating installations including “nuclear, hydraulic or thermal,” according to its website. It said in its emailed statement that it was working with EDF on “potential projects in the field of nuclear generation.”

Areva Deal

For its part, Areva and the Saudi construction company Binladin Group signed a partnership in January 2011 covering the nuclear and solar industries. The deal was announced by former Areva Chief Executive Officer Anne Lauvergeon at a press conference in Riyadh.

When Lauvergeon reached that deal for Areva, relations with EDF’s chief executive Henri Proglio were rocky. The two nuclear companies’ working relations have since improved after Luc Oursel was appointed to succeed Lauvergeon. Earlier this month, they reached a deal along with Chinese partners to develop two reactors in the U.K. for 16 billion pounds.

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