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Could safety row affect UAE nuclear decision?

French PM stresses confidence in Areva despite European concerns

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The UAE is on the cusp of handing out a US$40 billion nuclear contract to one of three interested parties.
The UAE is on the cusp of handing out a US$40 billion nuclear contract to one of three interested parties.

Concerns raised by safety agencies in the UK, France and Finland about Areva’s latest nuclear reactor are coming at the worst possible time for a French consortium hoping to win a US$40 billion contract to build power plants in Abu Dhabi.

European regulators have argued that there is insufficient independence between day-to-day safety systems and emergency systems on the brand new European Pressurised Reactors (EPR)

"Independence is important because, if a safety system provides protection against the failure of a control system, then they should not fail together," the British, French and Finnish agencies said in a joint statement, according to AFP.

Areva is already facing serious problems at the Olkiluoto nuclear plant in Finland, which was initially planned to be operational this year. Instead, the facility will now open at 2012, at the earliest, with extra costs adding another 50% to the initial price tag.

"The EPR technology has not been called into question," said French prime minister Francois Fillon in a local paper, according to Reuters.

"There needs to be extreme rigour in terms of safety. I have no doubt that the problems raised by the Authority will be resolved and that French reactors will be among the world's best and safest."

Earlier this year, the consortium consisting of Areva, GDF Suez and Total was considered to be in pole position for the Abu Dhabi contract, which is expected to be awarded before the end of the year.

The UAE is currently in the advanced stage of evaluating the bids, according to Hamad Al Kaabi, the country’s representative to the IAEA, who spoke to Reuters in October.

Other consortiums vying for the contract are the Japanese-US alliance between Hitachi and GE and a South Korea-led partnership consisting of Korea Electric Power, Samsung, Hyundai and Westinghouse.
 

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