EDF CEO defends French-Chinese nuclear cooperation -media

PARIS Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:11am EST

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PARIS Jan 23 (Reuters) - EDF's chief executive said the French utility had transferred nuclear technology to China but not to the extent that would harm France's interests, French media reported.

The French finance ministry has launched an investigation into whether agreements made between EDF and its Chinese partner, utility China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp (CGNPC), respect French strategic interests.

News of the investigation has ruffled feathers in China and raised questions in the media about EDF CEO Henri Proglio's position.

The transfers will not allow Chinese industry to get ahead of the French, Proglio told reporters in China, where he visited two French EPR reactors under construction in Taishan, along with French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq and reactor builder Areva CEO Luc Oursel.

"We have transferred nuclear technology to China. They did not have it, and if a nuclear fleet exists in China, it is thanks to EDF," Proglio said, according to French news site La Tribune and other media.

"Have we given them the means to work against EDF? The answer is no," he added.

"If you do not want to sell airplanes because you are afraid that people will imitate your airplanes, you will not sell airplanes. If you do not want to sell cars for fear that they too will produce cars, you will sell no cars either," Proglio was quoted as saying.

The construction of French EPR reactors in China allowed EDF to retain engineering skills at a time when France was no longer building plants at home, he said.

He added that EDF was not making a lot of money building nuclear plants in China and that the cooperation was more lucrative for the subcontractors and suppliers.

"EDF is probably the company that makes the least profit ... In our profit and loss accounts, China is not a determining factor," he was quoted as saying.

On Monday, Bricq said the decision to review France's nuclear cooperation with China was a regular process and was normal, considering that the Socialist government of President Francois Hollande had just taken power last year after 10 years of conservative rule. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Jane Baird)

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