China is expected to invite foreign companies early next year to bid for the design and construction of four new nuclear power generators that involve contracts worth billions of US dollars.
Two major domestic nuclear power firms, China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, have completed drafting the tender documents and proposals this month. The proposals have been sent to the State Council for final approval, according to Kang Rixin, general manager of CNNC.
"We will start international bidding once the proposal is approved," said Kang Tuesday at a press conference.
Foreign companies such as Electricite de France and Framatome ANP of France, Westinghouse of the United States and Japan's Mitsubishi have been scrambling for the contracts since China announced its plan for new nuclear power facilities earlier this year.
It is the first time in six years for Beijing to give the green light for new nuclear plant construction, in a bid to meet surging electricity demands.
The country is to start the construction of four new 1,000-megawatt pressurized-water nuclear power facilities in Sanmen, in east China's Zhejiang Province and Lingdong, in south China's Guangdong Province, in 2005.
Kang refused to disclose the details of the international bidding. But he said China will insist on using more domestic technology in the new plants when selecting an international partner or partners for the projects.
Three research institutions of CNNC are working on designing its own 1,000-megawatt nuclear power generators, hoping to play a bigger role in the new plants.
"We hope to finish the design next year," said Kang.
At yesterday's conference, the company said it expects to be capable of generating more than 13 billion kilowatt hours by the end of this year, 20 percent more than the original plan.
It also said it plans to generate 18 billion kilowatt hours in 2004, when the new generators of the Third Phase of the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant and the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant commence operation in the second half of the year.
Under a long-term plan, the government hopes to raise the country's nuclear power generating capacity to four times its current level, to 36 million kilowatts by 2020.
Nuclear power now takes 1.3 percent of the mainland's total electricity. The new generators will increase the proportion to more than 4 percent.
Eying the stable and hefty profit returns of nuclear power, local governments and power companies are lobbying the central government hard for the construction of these nuclear plants.
(China Daily December 24, 2003)