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Westinghouse expects contracts for 12 Chinese nuclear reactors: CEO

New York — Westinghouse expects it and its suppliers will get contracts in the near future related to construction of a dozen nuclear reactors in China, company CEO Danny Roderick said Thursday.

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China may build as many as 200 new nuclear units in the coming 15 years, and a 25-30% market share for Westinghouse is "realistic," Roderick said on the sidelines of a Nuclear Energy Institute event in New York.

Unlike the initial contracts under which Chinese companies are building four 1,150-MW Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at two sites -- Sanmen and Haiyang -- future agreements will not be turnkey contracts, Roderick said.

Westinghouse agreed to transfer the AP1000 technology to China as part of the deal to sell the four units, and China is seeking to export 1,400-MW versions of the AP1000.

However, Westinghouse and its suppliers expect to receive contracts for reactor coolant pumps and instrumentation systems for future AP1000 construction in China, Roderick said.

Such contracts could be worth $600 million to $800 million per reactor to Westinghouse and suppliers, including reactor coolant pump vendor Curtiss-Wright, Roderick said.

A formal announcement of contracts to supply components for up to 12 AP1000 reactors in China is expected in the coming weeks, Roderick said. He said he expects 30 to 40 AP1000 reactors could be under construction in China within 10 years.

China has made a policy decision to build large numbers of reactors based on the Westinghouse design, which could provide the company with revenue as well as service contracts for years, Roderick said.

The first AP1000 unit, Sanmen-1, is expected to begin operation "after the first of the year," Roderick said.

The startup of that unit, initially expected in 2013 or 2014, has been delayed by problems with components, including the sealed reactor coolant pumps built by Curtiss-Wright. Those pumps, the largest of their type ever built for a nuclear reactor, developed localized heating issues and then faced a problem with bearings that required them to be shipped back from China for refabrication.

A new problem, having to do with retaining clips in the pumps, was identified and addressed more recently, and a 100-day endurance testing run has begun, Roderick said. Once that test is completed this summer, the pumps can be shipped back to Sanmen and Haiyang for installation, Roderick said. That schedule would allow operation of the first new unit in early 2016, he said.

Four AP1000 units are being built in the US, with operation of the first two new units now expected in 2019 following a potential 18-month delay announced by Georgia Power, the largest owner of the two-unit Vogtle plant expansion, in January.

The Chinese government did not approve any new nuclear plants in 2014, while going ahead with units that were approved before the 2011 Fukushima I nuclear accident in Japan. Financial analysts have said they expect the government to resume authorizing new nuclear plants in the coming months.

Roderick said concern about air pollution is driving China's government to adopt an aggressive nuclear construction plan. New plant approvals will be prioritized in areas with the worst air pollution, he said.

China currently has 22 nuclear units in operation, with a total capacity of 20.29 GW.

--William Freebairn,
--Edited by Annie Siebert,