France’s EPR Nuclear Reactor to Get Chinese Debut, Minister Says

The latest-generation French nuclear reactor known as the EPR will be tested for the first time in China in 2014, according to Trade Minister Nicole Bricq.

“The Chinese have said this, they have promised me,” Bricq said in an interview in Paris. “The Chinese have told us that it’s their ambition.”

Areva SA and Electricite de France SA are developing EPRs in China at Taishan, Finland, France and under the latest plan in the U.K. following a deal last month to build a $26 billion plant at Hinkley Point in England. The projects at Flamanville in Normandy and Finland for the as-yet unproven EPR reactor have been plagued by delays and billions in budget overruns.

Bricq made her comments on the Chinese project yesterday following a press conference to publicize a nuclear trade fair next October in Paris as well as the importance of the atomic industry for French exports and jobs.

EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio declined to give a date for when the EPR at Taishan will be completed, saying that it’s China’s role to name the time.

“Taishan is progressing well,” he said.

The first EPR project in Finland, led by Areva, the French company that designed the technology, is seven years behind schedule and won’t be completed until 2016. The second, an EDF project at Flamanville in northwest France, will cost more than twice as much as expected.

EDF has said the lessons learned in these countries as well as China mean Hinkley Point will go more smoothly.

Delayed Start

The Taishan plant, built in partnership with China General Nuclear Power Corp., will start commercial operation in 2015, EDF said last month. That’s about a year later than originally planned. China General and China National Nuclear Corp. will hold minority stakes in the U.K. project.

At Flamanville in Normandy, EDF has pushed back the commercial start of the generator numerous times and revised cost estimates three years in a row. In December, the state-controlled utility raised the estimate to 8.5 billion euros ($11.4 billion).

Key milestones for developing the EPR were reached two years faster in China than in Finland, according to Areva.

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