France and China to enhance nuclear energy cooperation

10 January 2018

Cooperation on nuclear power technology is to be expanded between China General Nuclear (CGN) and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) under an agreement signed yesterday in Beijing. New Areva and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) have also agreed to work towards signing a contract for the construction of a used fuel processing and recycling facility in China.

CNNC-New Areva - January 2018 - 460 (CNNC)
New Areva CEO Philippe Knoche and CNNC Chairman Wang Shoujun sign the memorandum of commercial agreement (Image: CNNC)

The agreements were signed during the first visit to China by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Announced on the website of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the cooperation agreement between CEA and CGN focuses on areas such as nuclear reactor technology, advanced fuels and materials, and the nuclear fuel cycle. CGN and CEA will deepen cooperation in the upstream and downstream nuclear power industry supply chain, including reactor life management and the concept design of fourth-generation nuclear power technology.

CGN is the largest nuclear power operator in China, having 20 reactors in operation with a combined generating capacity of 21.47 GWe. It has a further eight units under construction, which will add a further 10.27 GWe of capacity.

The CEA is a key player in research, development and innovation in France. Its four main areas are: defence and security; nuclear and renewable energies; technological research for industry; and fundamental research in the physical sciences and life sciences. It is established in nine centres around France.

Meanwhile, New Areva and CNNC signed a memorandum of commercial agreement for the construction of a used fuel processing and recycling facility in China.

The partners signed an agreement in November 2007 to assess the feasibility of setting up an 800 tonne per year reprocessing plant in China based on Areva's La Hague and Melox plants and contract negotiations have continued since then.

In a statement, Areva said: "Through this memorandum, New Areva and CNNC reaffirm their mutual commitment to complete the negotiations of the contract for the Chinese commercial used fuel treatment-recycling plant project at the soonest, to launch the project in 2018, and acknowledge the substantial progress made in the negotiations during the past few months."

New Areva CEO Philippe Knoche said, "CNNC and New Areva have stepped up their efforts to reach agreement on the contract and we are seeing today very positive results." He added, "I am looking forward to finalising the negotiations soon and starting the implementation of this landmark project with our partner CNNC in 2018."

While France and China have cooperated on nuclear energy for over 30 years, in March 2014 a joint statement was issued by then French President Francois Hollande and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders pledged to encourage "industrial and institutional" stakeholders in both nations to advance cooperation efforts in the entire nuclear fuel cycle, including nuclear power plant safety, used fuel recycling, new build projects and uranium mining.

China and France signed a number of nuclear cooperation agreements in July 2015, with Areva and CNNC agreeing to cooperate in the nuclear fuel cycle, including the extraction and conversion of uranium, fabrication of zirconium fuel assemblies, decommissioning, transportation and recycling.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News