Areva Sees `Long' Talks on Fuel-Recycling Plant for China

Areva SA Chief Executive Officer Luc Oursel said talks on selling a nuclear-fuel recycling plant to China may take a long time as the French manufacturer begins commercial negotiations after setting technical terms.

“When these type of talks start, you never know when they will be completed,” Oursel said today in an interview at the World Nuclear Exhibition in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget. Construction of two nuclear reactors in Taishan, China, is going well, and Areva is working on winning a contract next year or in 2016 to supply two more for that project, he said.

The French atomic-energy plant builder is cutting spending and paring investments to restore profit following cost overruns at projects in Europe. Paris-based Areva has responded by expanding in markets outside of its home region such as China, which generates about 1 billion euros ($1.27 billion) in annual sales, and the U.S., where lower electricity prices due to cheap shale-oil supplies pose a challenge to earnings.

The global nuclear-power industry is gradually recovering from the “uncertainties” that followed the 2011 accident in Fukushima, Japan, with different approaches adopted according to region, Oursel said. Policy makers in Japan will “hopefully” lay out legal and technical rules “within months” to restart power plants in that country, while European officials are setting up a framework to enable new investments, he said.

“In countries like in the U.S, there is strong customer demand for productivity,” Oursel said. “We’re more proactive” in offering products and services that will increase safety, help extend nuclear-plant lifespans, reduce costs and optimize maintenance stoppages.

For large new projects as in the U.K., where Electricite de France SA plans to team up with Areva and Chinese partners to build two atomic plants, companies are increasingly willing to form partnerships to share the burden, the CEO said. That’s also the case in Poland, where power utilities are cooperating with large customers, he said.

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