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China, France renew nuclear power co-op

China and France turned a new page in nuclear power cooperation, with the signing of statements and memorandum of understanding by enterprises from both countries on Thursday.

Witnessed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and visiting French President Francois Hollande, the companies inked agreements on research and development of advanced reactors, nuclear fuel sharing, and operation and upgrading of nuclear power stations.

France is a major nuclear power user, deriving over 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, while China's nuclear power capacities under construction are the largest worldwide.

Cooperation between the two countries in nuclear power dates back to some 30 years ago, when the two sides began to jointly build the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province.

Daya Bay station is China's largest, supplying electricity to Hong Kong and the country's mainland power grid as well. The reactors were designed and built with nuclear power technologies from Electricite De France, or EDF.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Herve Machenaud, executive vice president and Asia Pacific branch president of EDF, said France was the only country that was courageous enough to transfer its nuclear power technologies to China in the 1980s, when other countries refused to do so.

"EDF has become the largest foreign electricity investor in China and the country's most important international partner in the field of electricity, thanks to its cooperation with Chinese peers in technology, management as well as corporate culture over the past 30 years," Machenaud said.

He Yu, chairman of the board of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, or CGNPG, said China and France have made tremendous achievements in nuclear power cooperation.

"The cooperation over the years has laid a solid foundation for the two countries to further their sustainable development and raise safety levels in the field of nuclear power," He said.

Win-win cooperation

Cooperation between the two sides in nuclear power application has not only brought opportunities to China in developing its own technologies, but also benefited the French company in maintaining its cutting-edge position in the industry, experts said.

"China, France as well as the world have all benefited and will continue to benefit from the success of the Daya Bay nuclear power program," said Pu Jilong, former manager of the Chinese nuclear power station.

The power station, put into commercial operation in 1994 with a contract worth over $4 billion, has helped the French nuclear power industry maintain its capacity in nuclear equipment supply, engineering, operation and research and development.

"France is in sharp contrast to other countries that refused to cooperate with China," said Chen Tai, president of Nuclear Power College under the CGNPG, which operates the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station.

"These countries have failed to maintain their nuclear power capacity, partly because they have chosen to give up on the Chinese market," Chen said.

China also benefited from the cooperation, Pu said.

Based on the technologies and experience gained from the Daya Bay nuclear power program, China has mastered the know-hows of design, construction and operation of nuclear power stations with a capacity of upto 10 million kilowatts on its own, Pu said.

So far, China has almost formed a complete industrial system of nuclear power, and has become the country with the largest nuclear power capacity under construction, Pu added.

Future plan

Machenaud said EDF is participating in China's massive development of nuclear power capacity by not only providing technical support but also getting involved in operation and investment.

"We shall set our roots in the Chinese nuclear power market through joint operations, and this is unprecedented (for EDF)," he said.

The joint development of new-type reactors by the two sides will bring the two countries' cooperation in nuclear power to a new and crucial stage, Machenaud said.

Besides CGNPG, EDF has also signed cooperation agreements with several major electricity suppliers in China.

"A comprehensive and diversified cooperation with Chinese enterprises will consolidate our position as a priority partner," Machenaud said.

Meanwhile, the cooperation will help EDF make breakthroughs in its business in China, Asia as well as other markets, he added.

"The signing of these new agreements on nuclear power will lay a solid foundation for enterprises from both countries to build deeper and more sustainable cooperation in the sector," He said.

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