July 31, 2014 / 3:59 PM / 3 years ago

EDF hopes French EPR will launch before Chinese reactors

PARIS, July 31 (Reuters) - A French version of a new type of nuclear reactor may be the first to connect to a grid, beating others also built by Aveva in Finland and China, the boss of French utility EDF said.

Henri Proglio, chief executive of state-controlled EDF , said on Thursday he hoped that the reactor under construction in Flamanville, could become the first EPR reactor to be connected up.

Four EPR reactors designed by French state-controlled nuclear group Areva are under construction worldwide, but the Finnish and French projects have been plagued by billion euro cost overruns and multiyear delays, although their construction started before the two Chinese reactors.

Areva says its new 1650 megawatt pressurized water EPRs are among the safest reactors in the world, with their core-catchers, plane-crash resisting concrete hulls and multiple backup systems. Critics say they are too big and expensive to build and the delays in construction have hurt Areva’s export prospects.

The two under construction in Taishan, southern China, had been slated to be connected to the grid in 2014 and 2015 respectively, but Nuclear Intelligence Weekly wrote in March that according to a China National Energy Administration presentation, the Taishan 1 and 2 reactors were now expected to come online in June 2015 and September 2016.

The Flamanville EPR is scheduled to start up in 2016.

“It would be great if we could launch Flamanville first. Taishan would be 30 percent cocorico, but Flamanville would be 100 percent cocorico,” Proglio said, using a popular French term for crowing about one’s success.

Proglio’s comments are the first indication from the French side that Taishan too might suffer delays. Chinese utility China General Nuclear (CGN) and EDF are in a 70-30 joint venture to build the Taishan reactors.

“The race is on,” Proglio said, adding that EDF would not make any special efforts to speed up construction at Flamanville just to be first.

Construction on the Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville reactors started in 2005 and 2007 respectively, work on Taishan 1 in 2009. The Olkiluoto reactor had originally been scheduled to go live in 2009.

Areva, which leads construction on the site, no longer wants to give a deadline for completion as it is in legal conflict with its customer, utility TVO.

EDF has picked EPRs for the two reactors planned for Hinkley Point, Britain, but that deal is conditional on getting European Commission approval for the state aid involved.

Areva hopes to sell two more EPR reactors for the Taishan site, but some sector specialists say that CGN wants to see the first EPRs in operation before ordering new ones. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq, editing by William Hardy)

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