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French return to pick up pieces

The French nuclear industry is not about to give up lightly.

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Flamanville-3, the first EPR rector under construction, is a showpiece of French nuclear prowess.
Flamanville-3, the first EPR rector under construction, is a showpiece of French nuclear prowess.

The French nuclear industry, rocked by loosing out on the GCC’s first nuclear project, is not about to give up lightly.

Last month, a trade mission organised by Ubifrance, the agency promoting the interests of French small and medium enterprise (SME) abroad, and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) was held in Abu Dhabi.

The aim of the two-day event was to bring the French companies into contract with the key decision makers in nuclear field in the emirates, and with the consortium building the GCC’s first nuclear power plants in the UAE.

The consortium around South Korea’s Kepco had shocked the French nuclear energy industry by winning the contract to built four nuclear reactors in the UAE for a total of US$20 billion.

The French had been confident that their bid, based on the new European Pressurised Reactor (ERP), would come up top. But the consortium based around Areva, EDF and GDF Suez paid little heed to the the demands and requirements of the UAE decision-makers, who effectively looked to outsource the whole project, according to Holger Rogner, section had at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Kepco, whose winning bid was both cheaper and more comprehensive, are now preparing for the reactors to come online by 2020.

A good time for the French SME, and some of the heavyweights, to come back into the picture, believes Romain Keraval, manager for infrastructure, transport and industry at Ubifrance.

“The project is just starting, right now the members of the consortium are listing their potential suppliers. Its definitely the right time to get them connected with the service providers, and as you know, France is a very skilled actor in this field.”

The scale of the project means that the consortium, which apart from Kepco also includes Doosan Heavy Industries and US company Westinghouse, is unable to source exclusively from South Korea, notes Keraval.

The trade mission is a shrewd move, as few counties are as well placed to gain ancillary business from the project.

France produces 78 percent of its electricity from 58 nuclear reactors, and is busy exporting nuclear generated power to its neighbours.

Such enthusiasm for nuclear power has spawned not just giants of its trade such as Areva or EDF, but a plethora of small and medium sized companies that service the industry.

Keraval estimates that there are around one hundred companies that can be regarded as tier one SME’s with plenty of smaller companies able to deliver smaller services or components.

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