PARIS French utility EDF is making progress with plans to export nuclear reactors to India and South Africa and says it is in talks with several other countries about nuclear projects.
EDF nuclear newbuild chief Xavier Ursat told reporters that once EDF's takeover of Areva's reactor unit Areva NP was completed by the end of 2017, it would spearhead the French nuclear industry's export drive.
He said talks with the Indian government about a project to build six Areva-designed EPR reactors in Jaitapur, south of Mumbai, were progressing well.
"We do not expect to sign a deal for six reactors in one go, but our target is to sign a framework agreement this year that would give us some visibility and allow us to start detailed studies for this project," he said.
He said EDF's proposals to the Indian government were based on the current EPR model - which is under construction in France, Finland and China and will also be built in the UK - not for a "New Model EPR" which the company is preparing.
Ursat said EDF was also working on a response to the South African government's "request for information," made in late 2016, which should be ready by the end of April.
South Africa operates two ageing French-built reactors in Koeberg, but several other reactor vendors including Russia's Rosatom are also eying the contract.
"We have a history of 30 years of good relations with South Africa, that counts for something," Ursat said.
He said EDF was also hoping for new contracts in China, but said talks there would have to wait for the completion of two EPR reactors under construction in Taishan, southern China.
"By year-end we expect to load fuel in Taishan 1, after that we probably will have discussions about the future," he said.
Ursat said there were also possibilities in eastern Europe, including in Czech Republic and Poland.
"Brazil also remains interested in nuclear, but that will probably take a few years to put into place," he added.
He said there were contacts with Saudi Arabia about nuclear newbuild, but without a precise time horizon, and that EDF had held talks with the Malaysian government but there had been no progress on that front recently.
Asked about the success of Korean manufacturer Kepco in building second-generation reactors in time and on budget in United Arab Emirates, he said more modern third-generation reactors were still the best option.
Both Areva and Toshiba-owned Westinghouse have effectively been bankrupted by cost overruns on their more expensive and hard-to-build third-generation reactors.
Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, while Areva is being recapitalised by the French state after years of losses.
"I think that our third-generation reactor meets the needs of countries that are starting with nuclear energy and will move directly to a third-generation reactor," he said.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mark Potter)