Beijing is mulling proposals to merge its two biggest nuclear power firms as it gears up to compete for nuclear new-build work around the world, three industry officials familiar with the situation have told Reuters.
The two firms are preparing to take a stake in the UK’s new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, being developed by with French energy giant EDF.
Plans have already been submitted to the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (Sasac) to merge the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), said Xu Lianyi, a former government official and industry consultant.
The two were set up as rivals to compete for projects at home and abroad but, under government prompting, they have cooperated on a new reactor type, the Hualong I (pictured), with the intention of marketing it internationally.
"The merger between CGN and CNNC is inevitable," Mr Xu told Reuters, adding that the merger proposals had received strong backing from central government.
Mr Xu now serves as a senior expert at the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp, a firm entrusted with building and developing "third-generation" nuclear technology, including the US-based Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor.
Officials with Sasac and CNNC told Reuters they were not aware of the merger. CGN was not available for comment.
CNNC was hived off from the now defunct nuclear ministry and has strong ties with the military and the government. CGN, formerly known as China Guangdong Nuclear, is the state-owned parent of CGN Power, which raised US$3.2 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong this week.
The first Hualong I reactor is expected to be approved for construction soon, with local media reports saying it would be built in the southeast province of Fujian.
Meanwhile US engineering giant Fluor Corporation yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with CNNC to cooperate on nuclear and renewable energy opportunities in Europe and China.
The MoU was signed in Beijing by Dave Dunning, Fluor executive vice president of business development and strategy, and Qian Zhimin, president of CNNC.
CNNC and Fluor plan to cooperate on civil nuclear-related opportunities in the UK, Germany and China.