France Aims to Streamline, Unify Nuclear Industry

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"Another effort to put behind public disputes between Areva's and EDF's heads."

France's nuclear policy council on Monday unveiled measures to streamline and unify a nuclear industry plagued by technical issues and public disputes that have tarnished its image abroad.

Among a set of measures aimed at reshaping one of France's most sensitive industries after the loss of a landmark deal in Abu Dhabi in December 2009, the council called on Areva to turn its uranium mining arm into a subsidiary, and cooperate with EDF and GDF Suez to develop a new reactor.

The government holds over 80% of EDF's capital and about 90% of Areva's.

The council, chaired by President Nicolas Sarkozy, also announced the start of discussions to set up a wide-ranging partnership with top nuclear client China.

"Beyond the supply of products and services for existing and future facilities, this partnership could include the building of new EPR (reactors), the joint development of a medium-sized 1,000 megawatt reactor," Sarkozy's office said in a statement.

China, which currently has 13 working reactors with just under 11 gigawatts of total generating capacity, aims to raise its capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2020.

Sarkozy's office said Energy Minister Eric Besson would set up a nuclear power strategic committee, which will gather all of France's nuclear power players. Besson will chair the committee, and EDF Chief Executive Henri Proglio will be his deputy.

This appeared to be another effort by the government to put behind public disputes between Areva's and EDF's heads in the wake of the Abu Dhabi loss, and delays in a key Finnish project, which have harmed the French nuclear industry's image abroad.

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