- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

BEIJING (AP) — China and the United States have signed an agreement that paves the way for Westinghouse Electric Co. to build four civilian nuclear reactors in China, a multibillion-dollar coup for U.S. business over French and Russian competitors.

On Saturday, China’s minister for the National Development and Reform Commission, Ma Kai, and U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman signed a memorandum of understanding supporting the transfer of nuclear technology to China.

“This is an exciting day for the U.S. nuclear industry,” Mr. Bodman said at the ceremony. “It is an example that if we work together we can advance not only our trade relations but also our common goal of energy security.”

The agreement capped several days of top-level trade talks between China and the U.S. that otherwise yielded few concrete results. It was signed on the sidelines of a closed-door meeting of five major oil-importing nations hosted by China.

Stephen Tritch, Westinghouse’s president and chief executive, said the details of the contract to build facilities at Sanmen, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and at Yangjiang in southern China’s Guangdong province have yet to be completed but that it was a multibillion-dollar deal. He said the company wants the plants operating by 2013.

The agreement, negotiated late into the night Friday, makes Westinghouse’s AP1000 — which relies on gravity rather than mechanical pumps to carry water to a reactor in an emergency — China’s choice for developing its own nuclear industry.

Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse, which was acquired earlier this year by Japan’s Toshiba Corp., is banking on its AP1000 technology to help lead an atomic-energy renaissance in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Westinghouse, U.S. engineering and construction services contractor Shaw Group Inc. — which holds a 20 percent stake in Westinghouse — and China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Co. signed a companion agreement to follow through with negotiations on specific terms for the technology transfer.

The Chinese said French nuclear group Areva was their second choice. A competing bid by Russia’s AtomStroyExport apparently was rejected.

Both U.S. and French politicians had lobbied hard for the deal. The Chinese said it chose Westinghouse based on its technology, its agreement on transferring expertise, the style of cooperation and the prospects for developing locally based technology.

The deal in China will create more than 5,000 jobs in the U.S., Mr. Bodman said, helping to redress the mammoth U.S. trade deficit, which is on line to exceed last year’s record $202 billion.

Asia offers the promise of a bonanza for American companies such as Westinghouse and General Electric Co., which already have a strong presence in the region. Westinghouse has helped build 14 nuclear plants in South Korea and provided technology for almost half of Japan’s 55 nuclear units. GE, meanwhile, has helped build 36 reactors in Japan, India and Taiwan.

Eighteen reactors — about 70 percent of the world’s total under construction — are going up in Asia, and another 77 are planned or proposed, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry advocacy group based in Washington.

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