Updated: 2012-03-23 15:35
China National Nuclear Corp. said it's in talks to buy a stake in uranium mines owned by Areva SA (AREVA) as the world's biggest energy consumer prepares to resume approval of new reactor construction.
"We are also discussing opportunities with many countries to cooperate in terms of uranium exploration and mining," Sun Qin, president of China's biggest atomic power plant operator, said in an interview in Seoul today, without giving a time-frame or details on location.
China National Nuclear, which started operations at its first overseas uranium mine in 2010, is looking to acquire additional assets to meet rising domestic demand, the company said in March last year. Rival China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co. is offering to buy Australian explorer Extract Resources Ltd. (EXT) for A$2.2 billion ($2.3 billion) to gain access to the world's fourth-biggest uranium deposit.
"We are preparing to list CNNC Nuclear Power Co.," as part of our expansion plans, Sun said, without elaborating.
China National Nuclear is also the parent of Hong Kong- listed CNNC International Ltd. (2302), a uranium producer in Niger.
The Chinese government is "very likely" to resume approval of new nuclear projects in 2012 as the government completes a safety review prompted by the Fukushima disaster last year, Sun said on March 5. China, which started operating its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the China Nuclear Energy Association.
"Nuclear is going to continue to play a very important role in the future," Areva Chief Executive Officer Luc Oursel told reporters in Seoul today. "Our estimation is that today we have more or less 400 gigawatts of nuclear plants, and we think this will grow to 600 gigawatts in 2030."
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March last year crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, causing some countries to suspend or scale back their nuclear plants. Areva, currently building plants in France and Finland, is bidding to provide reactors in China, India, the U.K., Finland and the Czech Republic, Oursel said yesterday in Paris.
"The nuclear renaissance has not been severely impacted by the Fukushima accident," said Oursel, who was attending the Seoul Nuclear Industry Summit, citing tenders in the Czech Republic, Finland and South Africa.
Areva produced 9,142 metric tons of uranium last year, making it the world's second-biggest producer of the atomic fuel, according to the company's website. The Paris-based company has mines in countries including Australia, Canada and Niger.