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Franco-Chinese Cooperation for Peace: The Example of Nuclear Power

Franco-Chinese Cooperation for Peace: The Example of Nuclear Power

Hervé Machenaud – Mr. Machenaud is former Executive Director of the EDF Group (for engineering and electricity generation) and former Director of the Asia-Pacific Branch, France.

Mr. Ambassador, Madame President, Chairmen, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

I am particularly pleased and grateful to have been invited by the Schiller Institute to speak about what I believe, in all objectivity, to be one of, or perhaps even the finest cooperation project in international industrial history.

I’m talking about cooperation between France and China in the field of civil nuclear power.

In the early 1980s, France was chosen by China to help her launch its nuclear program. The contract signed in 1986 for the construction of the Daya Bay power plant was a pact of trust between France and China, between EDF and GNPJVC, the Guangdong Nuclear Corporation created for the purpose.

A pact of trust because, in addition to training dozens of Chinese engineers who have come to France to work in EDF power plants, China asked EDF to manage the project and guarantee its successful completion. I’m proud to have been the Chinese company’s first Technical Manager.

A pact of trust, because very quickly, the hundred or so highly-qualified Chinese engineers in charge of observing, monitoring and questioning our practices were, at their request, integrated into EDF’s engineering teams. We are no longer under surveillance, but partners, a truly integrated team.

A pact of trust, because when EDF studies the upgrading, after ten years of operation of the Gravelines power plant, the Daya-bay reference, it offers without hesitation to make available to GNPJVC the 110 modifications, the invaluable fruit of know-how acquired over hundreds of years[PU1]  of feedback. China will appreciate this gesture.

As a further act of trust, shortly before Daya Bay was commissioned, GNPJVC asked EDF to take responsibility for the first few years of operation. EDF then sent some sixty operators to start up the plant and train the Chinese teams, who within a few years would be taking the reins of their plant.

In 1995, just as Daya Bay was coming on stream, CGNPC commissioned a second plant based on the same French model, on the same site. EDF will provide technical assistance and French companies will act as suppliers, but Ling Ao will be a Chinese power plant, built under Chinese responsibility by Chinese companies. China has acquired its autonomy in this area.

This will not prevent close cooperation between French and Chinese operators: exchanges of experience, spare parts, support in the event of incidents… Daya Bay and Ling Ao take part in performance competitions for French power plants, often winning first prize. This cooperation continues today between the operators of the 56 French reactors and the 36 Chinese reactors of the same technology.

In 2007, CGN invited France to build two EPR reactors on the Taishan site, and EDF to invest alongside it. This agreement, unique in China’s history, was signed for the plant’s fifty-year lifetime.

The next step, in 2013, will be CGN’s commitment to EDF to build and operate two EPRs at Hinkley Point in the UK, with the prospect of building two more at Sizewell and two HPRs, the Chinese Hualong model, at Bradwell.

This cooperation is set to last a century.

The partnership between France and China culminated in Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to France at the end of June 2015.The joint declaration on deepening Franco-Chinese cooperation on civil nuclear energy was made public on the occasion of his visit. It provides for comprehensive cooperation “from mining to reprocessing,” in all areas of operation, the design of new medium- and high-power reactors, their construction in China, France and third countries, the association of industrialists from both countries and the construction of a reprocessing plant in China. All French companies, starting with AREVA and Alstom, and the hundred or so members of the Partenariat France Chine Electricité (PFCE) association, are involved in this agreement, which opens up immense prospects.

Confidence is at its zenith.

The industrial alliance between France, which has the world’s most extensive operating experience, and China, which is going to build the biggest nuclear program in history, is an asset for both countries, and beyond, for the safety and progress of nuclear power worldwide.

This historic partnership is the fruit of the work of men and women who have put their faith in projects to be built together, and have given each other their trust. Today, they are tied by bonds of friendship.

In a field as strategic as nuclear energy, such a partnership is a cornerstone for building cooperation and peace between peoples and nations.

And if today, this cooperation has weakened somewhat under the effect of various negative influences, let us hope that it is revived. Its foundations remain intact, and it is certainly not only in the mutual interest of our two countries, but also a contribution to progress and peace in the world.

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