Westinghouse Electric Company this month won the contract to build four nuclear power units in China, edging out its French competitor Areva in a two-year-long bid.
Under the contract, its technology will be used for four third-generation nuclear reactors: two in Sanmen, East China's Zhejiang Province, and another two in Yangjiang, South China's Guangdong Province.
It will be Westinghouse's first major project in China. Earlier media reports estimated that the value of the project would reach US$8billion.
According to Liu Xingang, chief representative of Westinghouse China, the company's success can be mainly attributed to three factors: advanced technology, competitive pricing and an offering of all-round technology transfer.
Westinghouse's technologically advanced power plant, the AP1000, employs passive safety systems that rely on gravity, natural circulation and evaporative cooling wherever possible.
"The AP1000 is the safest and most economical nuclear power plant available in the worldwide commercial marketplace and is the only third-generation plus reactor to receive a design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission," Liu said.
Compared to other plant designs, the AP1000 can generate the same amount of power with 50 percent fewer valves, 35 percent fewer pumps, 80 percent less piping and high-voltage alternating current units, which makes the construction of the power plants more economical.
"Apart from the advanced technology and competitive price, we are offering an all-round technology transfer," Liu said.
Stephen R Tritch, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Westinghouse, earlier told China Daily that Westinghouse will fully co-operate with its Chinese customers to transfer all technology as requested.
Westinghouse's bid was partly delayed after the company was bought by Toshiba, Japan's largest maker of nuclear power plant equipment.
Toshiba bought Westinghouse for US$5.4 billion earlier this year to bolster its position in the nuclear power industry.
"However, it is important to notice that Westinghouse will continue to be a US-operated company with the technology in the control of the US Government," Tritch said.
Although Westinghouse said it won the contract mostly because of advanced technology, some analysts contend that the agreement plays a role in warming trade relations between the United States and China, the world's top two energy consumers.
"(The agreement) represents a major step forward in our relations and will advance our bilateral trade relationship and the energy security of both our nations," US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement after the signing of the memorandum with the National Development and Reform Commission.
Unlike Westinghouse, which had no major projects in China previously, its competitor Areva won its first nuclear reactor contract in China in 1986 and has since built four of the nation's nine reactors, employing 3,500 people in the country.
It is offering China its European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) technology to bid for the third-generation nuclear power units.
The company Chairwoman Anne Lauvergeon, who earlier accompanied French President Jacques Chirac on the visit to China, also said that the company would fully transfer its technology in the bid.
China is the largest potential market for the nuclear industry in the coming years, said Lauvergeon, adding that the market is critical for Areva to obtain one-third of the world's nuclear energy market.
(China Daily December 27, 2006)