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AREVA and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Sign Largest Nuclear Contract Ever

Cutaway of an EPR. (1) reactor vessel, (2) the steam generators,(3) the pressurizer, (4) reactor coolant pumps, (5) inner prestressed  concrete housing, (6) metallic liner and outer reinforced concrete shell, (7) special area for collection and cooling of escaping molten core, (8, 9) backup diesel generators, (10) turbine building. Click to enlarge. Larger detailed cutaway here.

AREVA and China Guangdong Nuclear Power COrporation (CGNPC) signed a record contract worth €8 billion (US$11.9 billion)—the biggest ever in the history of nuclear power—and entered into a long-term commitment.

Through a series of agreements, AREVA, in conjunction with CGNPC, will build two new generation EPR reactors and will provide all the materials and services required to operate them. Following Finland and France, China will be home to the third and fourth EPR to be built in the world. The EPR will be built in Taishan in Guangdong province.

The EPR is a Generation III+ pressurized water reactor (PWR) which generates about 1,600 MWe of electric power and features enhanced safety and simplified operations and maintenance. It has a projected service life of 60 years, compared with a 40-year service life for other power reactors. AREVA offers two third-generation reactor models: the EPR and the SWR 1000, a boiling water reactor (BWR) that can generate 1,000-1,250 MWe.

Pressurized water reactor. Click to enlarge.

In a Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) like the EPR, water removes the heat produced inside the reactor core by nuclear fission. (See diagram at right.) This water also moderates neutrons to sustain the nuclear chain reaction (neutrons have to be moderated to be able to break down the fissile atom nuclei).

The heat produced inside the reactor core is transferred to the turbine through the steam generators. Only heat is exchanged between the reactor cooling circuit (primary circuit) and the steam circuit used to feed the turbine (secondary circuit). No exchange of cooling water takes place. The primary water is pumped through the reactor core and the primary side of the steam generators, in four parallel closed loops, by coolant pumps powered by electric motors.

The EPR was developed by Framatome and Siemens KWU (the nuclear division of Siemens), whose nuclear activities were combined in January 2001 to form Framatome ANP, now AREVA NP. The French electricity utility EDF (Electricité de France), together with the major German utilities, played an active role in the project.

As a new-generation reactor, the EPR affords economic and technical progress over its predecessors, according to AREVA: enhanced safety level, reduced volumes of long-lived waste, considerable reduction in the doses received by operating and maintenance personnel, and reduced electricity production costs (better use of fuel, improved availability, higher operating flexibility, and fewer maintenance constraints).

Better use is made of fuel in the EPR—17% less uranium is required to generate the same amount of electricity, thereby, reducing the volume of waste. Costs are therefore lower for the entire fuel cycle from enrichment to reprocessing. The general layout of the equipment is designed to provide easier access and simplify maintenance operations that are consequently carried out more rapidly. Routine maintenance of safety-related systems can be carried out without shutting down the plant. The length of the scheduled refueling outage has been shortened to allow an increase of reactor availability to more than 90%.

In line with the requirements of the French and German safety authorities, the initial designs of the EPR made allowance for a military aircraft impact scenario. In the September 11 context, the call for bids launched in 2002 by Finland for its fifth reactor demanded that candidate models must be capable of withstanding an impact by a commercial aircraft. The EPR designs were, therefore, upgraded with extra thickness and provided scope for these modifications without any effect on the fundamental design of the EPR.

In the event of core damage and the occurrence of a core melt, the molten core (“corium”), after melting through the reactor vessel wall, would be contained in a dedicated spreading compartment. This compartment is then cooled to remove the residual heat.

In the USA, AREVA will submit its US EPR Design Certification (DC) application by mid-December 2007 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with an anticipated validation by 2010. Validation by 2010 would enable that a US EPR to be licensed and ready for operation in 2015.

In the United Kingdom, on September 10, 2007, AREVA and EDF launched a joint website that presents the details of the EPR nuclear reactor. These details have been submitted to the UK regulators for design assessment.

Concurrent with the AREVA-GNPC contract, an agreement has been signed between China and France opening the way to industrial cooperation in the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. Under this agreement, CNNC (China National Nuclear Corporation) and Areva have agreed to undertake feasibility studies related to the construction of a spent fuel reprocessing-recycling plant in China. They have also created a joint venture in the area of zirconium.

China’s nuclear plants. Click to enlarge.

In 2007, China has an installed nuclear capacity of 9 GWe with 11 nuclear power plants in operation, generating 2% of China's electricity production. Nuclear power stations are located in the south and south-east of the country where there is most economic growth and no coal or dams. China has selected a range of different technologies for its nuclear program, some of which have been developed by Chinese companies, while others are being imported from France, Canada, and Russia.

In May 2007, the government and the National Development and Reform Commission planned to increase nuclear capacity to 40 GWe by 2020, and to 120-160 GWe by 2030.



Too bad our US firms did not get the contract. With our huge trade deficit with China , would have been a chance
to get some $ back, and get our firms ( GE , B & W , CE , Parsons and others) some current nuclear plant work. Great op. to test new designs in someone else's backyard.


China is just showing the rest of the world how to pass a leader that is foolishly throwing away it's global advantage. WOW these guys just keep building infrastructure, while we waste trillions killing people trying to steal their oil. No wonder they are passing us by!


It would just let China take the technology and then compete with us.  China has no protection for IP.

Max Reid

If China steals / learns from Western Nuclear tech, then the West can steal / learn from China's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor tech.

Harvey D

China must have analysed all sides before choosing the European AREVA EPR to grow from 9GWe to 120-160 GWe, requiring up to 100 new units, by 2030. This may become the largest world order unless USA decides to switch (very doubtful) from coal to locally built improved nuclear power plants by 2???.

It is difficult to export American nuclear plants when not a single unit has been installed in USA in the last 20 years.

Of course, China will most probably build improved AREVAs within 10-12 years and become a possible lower cost exporter. That is what global commerce is all about. That's what is happening very fast with cars/suv/trucks.


The Chinese have also ordered 4 smaller Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors.

The weak dollar should do wonders for US reactor exports.


On the one hand, it's good for everybody if China goes heavy on nuclear and sequestration of coal. On the other hand, if you were selling to China, you would want to keep some parts of the the technology "black box" so they had to keep buying services and parts from you.


This 'China will steal all the IP' nonsense is just xenophobic garbage. It happens with small machine shops and software, but while China could learn how to make all the EPR infrastructure, its a whole new matter to actually invest in building it when the French allready have comparative advantage from existing infrastructure not to mention the human resource base.


As long as this nuclear reactor doesn't involve lead-based paint, I feel the Chinese can be trusted to operate it.


France is lucky to get this deal. No doubt that Nicolas Sarkozy's pro-business regime helped nurture it.


France got the deal because they stuck with nuclear power while the rest of the west ran for cover after Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island.

They deserve credit of sticking with an unpopular technology and making a success of it.

It shows the benefits of Gallic stubbornness and the desire to be different from the USA (and Britain).

Vive la Différence!


Of course, now we have to watch for nuclear waste paint on toys. Got to do something with that stuff.

Seriously though, nuclear may seem like a good idea but until the waste issue is solved it's a horribly bad idea.

Paul Dietz

The waste issue (if you mean spent fuel) is already solved. Seal the stuff in inert-gas filled armored casks and let it decay. If you want to wring your hands about what they'll do with the casks 300 years from now, go ahead, but let me off that bus.


The waste issue with nuclear energy is solvable, its a matter of economics: once U235 becomes to expensive they will have to swtich to reprocessing, breeding and thorium, doing so reducing the amount of waste produced 10 fold, and with accelerator-driven subcritical reactors the potential exist to "burn" up nuclear waste for power. Aside for legislation the only way to us of the U235 is to increase the size of the nuclear industry and force them through peak uranium.


This is all well and good for power generation, but if China starts selling nuke plants to other countries as has been suggested, all that means is increased risk of catastrophe. Unless there's been some sort of revolution in nuclear, these players can still weaponize uranium. If its sold to a country that's stable now and then an unforseen dictator takes over in 20 years, that's a major problem. Warning: I'm about to go on a tear.

These weapons can set back any environmental gains made very quickly. I'd like to see investment in green, renewable power generation that can eventually surpass nuclear efficiency so that humanity can limit use of this technology, preferably to space exploration and maybe asteroid defense. No one would care if Iran or N.Korea went solar or hydro.

Wikipedia the "tsar bomba," the biggest detonation to date, practically made Hiroshima look like a hand grenade. It was so powerful that much of the energy went out into space. Google earth the drop site, still scorched 30+ years later. City destruction today would likely consist of a spattering of Hiroshima level nukes like shotgun pellets. Missile defense is a pipe dream, even if it works there's other ways to deliver besides ICBMs and 9/11 should show that we're not ready for everything.

Sorry to rain on any parades, and if I'm wrong, someone say so. The waste doesn't bother me as much as the weapons. I'd rather see a bunch of energy-strapped humans than vaporized and radioactive ones. How long until a breakthrough makes weapons grade uranium easy to produce? Why does the choice have to be between global warming disaster and nuclear disaster?

If nuclear was greener and non-weaponizable plants were the norm, I'd be all for it. What ever happened to that Make Google Nuclear guy? Didn't he have that designed?

Sorry for the rant, I hope this all works out for the best. Humanity needs energy.


They are sealing waste in inert-gas filled armored casks? Where? The problem hasn't been solved and the cost associated fission and it's long term safe waste disposal far outweigh any benefit. Not to mention, as has been done, the weapons issue.
Hell, if we had of used the money spent in Iraq on solar panels and windmills we wouldn't need nuclear plants and maybe not even coal. (I didn't do the math though I read something to this effect a couple weeks ago)


Its all very well to posture, but the cost of waste storage is tiny. One might very well wonder if nuclear is so costly why France has the lowest electricity costs in europe.



The "Should google go nuclear guy" is dead, died of old age, his research continues but with the very minimum funding (google is not funding it by the way). One of hte problems with fusion energy research in lack of funding, the other problem is huge amounts of funding going to a economically pathetic tokamak fusion reactor.

Weaponization potential can be reduced using thorium cycles and pebble bed reactors. People are going to kill each other anyways and they will make the bomb with or without powerplants, might as well get something useful and peaceful out of it.

G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert

'Elliot' says "No one would care if Iran or N.Korea went solar or hydro ... City destruction today would likely consist of a spattering of Hiroshima level nukes ..."

But Hiroshima was bombed with uranium that had never been near any reactor. Any hydroelectric plant could be enriching uranium for a Hiroshima-style bomb.

It's generally easier to weaponize nothing than to weaponize a power reactor, and every acquirer of nuclear weapons so far has taken the former approach. Maybe they build reactors, but not power reactors.

Guns and motors are a good analogy. Pistons sliding in cylinders are very like bullets in barrels; the internal combustion, sliding-thing link cannot be broken. The knowledge that enables a country to make car engines inevitably means it can make guns too.

And yet guns, or the protection of someone with them, arrive everywhere first, and only a fool would say we can't sell cars to Ouagadogou because they might weaponize them. Only fools say the same with respect to nuclear reactors, also, but there is a big demand for antinuclear follies.


@ Ben - I was unfamiliar with many of those developments, and its sad to see that potentially more benevolent alternative designs are being overlooked. I can certainly agree that people will always kill each other, I would hope that we can agree that scale matters largely in this equation.

@ GRL Cowan -Lately the US has been trying to stop nuclear power reactors from being built in Iran and have them shut down in N. Korea. N. Korea actually set off nuclear weapons. Peaceful energy programs are used to disguise weapon programs. An alternative to nuclear power would make it obvious when weapons are being designed and manufactured because who really needs that much uranium for anything else?

The knowledge and materials for creating nuclear power plants seems commonly translatable into building nuclear weapons, just like your ICE engine to gun comparison. The difference, and maybe its just nuance, is scale. If Ouagadougou uses car tech to make guns they can do drive-by's or maybe make tanks and go cause atrocities until they're stopped. Nukes can set back humanity and society as a whole, killing far more innocents in far less time. Nukes in the wrong hands seem to have larger implications that guns. I don't feel that minimizing this technolgy is a foolish stance. We lucked out that the Cold War stayed cold, why push it?

Couldn't nuclear power be a placeholder until a cleaner, WMD-less alternative is commercialized? Spread the alternative to the energy hungry, leave nuclear for specialty projects where it's already established and hope for the best.

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein

Paul Dietz

They are sealing waste in inert-gas filled armored casks? Where?

Many places. It's become the de facto standard way of dealing with spent fuel after the initial cooling period in pools. It's cheap, simple, very rugged and robust, and requires very little maintenance.


G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert

"that much uranium"?

Ten tonnes of natural uranium contains 71 kg of 235-U, more than enough, IIRC, for a Hiroshima-style bomb. There is no way to prevent people who strongly enough want to from undetectably mining this much, just about anywhere.

"Why push it?" -- all available evidence suggests that building power reactors does not push it, and refraining from building them will not restrain it. For a proliferator, they naturally are a long way around. Their presence or absence cannot prevent shorter ways from being taken.


Mining uranium perhaps, but it still has to be enriched to make a usable weapon. This requires conspicuous equipment, drawing attention and hopefully an appropriate response.

Spreading nuclear equipment and knowledge to places that don't yet have seems like the definition of pushing it. All it takes from there is the will. I'd like to know what evidence you're talking about, because this is all pretty obvious stuff. There are a lot of countries now with nuclear weapons. This is a trend worth stopping.

"For a proliferator, they naturally are a long way around." - this sentence doesn't make sense to me, so I don't know how to respond to it.


3200MWe, $11.9b = $3.1785/watt capex+operation (for an unspecified term), decommissioning not included.

This is within a dollar of current RETAIL prices for photovoltaic panels. Oh yeah, which need a lot less maintenance than nuclear reactors. Cleanup when you're done with the site is likely several orders of magnitude less expensive as well.

And people say solar is too expensive?

Paul Dietz

And people say solar is too expensive?

A pity those solar panels aren't producing that rated power 90+% of the time, like nuclear reactors are.

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