EDF finalises deal to run two China nuclear plants

BEIJING, Aug 10 (Reuters) - EDF EDF.PA, the world's biggest single producer of nuclear energy, signed a formal agreement on Sunday to invest in and operate two new-generation reactors in the southern province of Guangdong.

Chief Executive Pierre Gadonneix said France’s EDF would pay 600 million to 800 million euros ($910 million-$1.21 billion) over four years for its 30 percent equity stake in the joint venture firm, Taishan Nuclear Power Co.

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp, EDF’s long-standing partner in China, is the majority shareholder.

The deal, which needs the approval of the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce, fleshes out an agreement in principle reached last November during a visit to China by French President Nicolas Sarkozy .

Ground will be broken in Taishan in September 2009 with a view to the 1.7 MW European pressurised reactors, developed by Areva CEPFi.PA, going on line in 2013 and 2014.

Areva said in November the deal, valued at 8 billion euros ($12 billion), was the biggest commercial nuclear power contract on record.

China is one of four countries where EDF has ambitious expansion plans, along with the United States, South Africa and Britain.

EDF suffered a setback on Aug. 1 when it failed to buy British Energy BGY.L after major shareholders in the British firm rejected EDF's 12 billion pound ($24 billion) takeover bid as too low.

Gadonneix, who is attending the Olympic Games at the invitation of the mayor of Beijing, declined substantive comment but reaffirmed that EDF was not out of the picture.

“The situation is exactly the same as it was 10 days ago,” he told a small group of reporters.

“I am determined that EDF play a major role in the relaunch of nuclear power in Britain, which I think is inevitable and indispensable,” he said.

Sunday’s deal in Beijing, struck in the early hours after long talks, sets out in detail how the joint venture will be run.

After November’s framework agreement, Sino-French relations went through a rocky patch after demonstrators in Paris disrupted the Olympics torch relay to protest against China’s policy in Tibet.

But Gadonneix said the furore never affected the talks between EDF and CGNPC, which cooperated to build the Daya Bay and Ling Ao nuclear plants in southern China more than 20 years ago.

Some of the same EDF engineers who worked on Daya Bay would be working on the Taishan plant, Gadonneix said. (Reporting by Alan Wheatley; Editing by Jason Neely)