UPDATE 2-EDF to head French nuclear deal in Abu Dhabi

* EDF could take command of French nuclear bid-Proglio

* Bid to be submitted on Dec. 10-Proglio

* Information on bid organisation to be sent to UAE-source

* French consortium has already lowered price-sources

* Abu Dhabi nuclear plant project estimated at up to $40 bln

(Adds two sources, Areva CEO hearing, background)

By Gilles Guillaume and Nina Sovich

PARIS, Dec 9 (Reuters) - EDF EDF.PA is set to take the lead in a fresh bid by a French consortium to sell at least two nuclear reactors to Abu Dhabi, the new head of the French nuclear power giant said on Wednesday.

“What is envisaged today, although nothing is set yet, is a management structure for the project, in which EDF would head up the project in association with GDF Suez,” Henri Proglio told reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

Power and gas group GDF Suez GSZ.PA, oil major Total TOTF.PA and Areva CEPFi.PA, the world's biggest nuclear reactor maker, bid for the Abu Dhabi contract nearly two years ago, and were initially seen as frontrunners.

But the French consortium -- which EDF joined earlier this year after a request by the United Arab Emirates to French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- have recently appeared to be losing ground to a rival bid by Korea Electric Power Corp 015760.KS.

A consortium comprising General Electric GE.N and Japan's Hitachi 6501.T is also bidding.

In an effort to compete with the cheaper South Korean offer, the French consortium reduced its price in November, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation have told Reuters, adding they were now waiting for Abu Dhabi’s decision.

But Proglio, chief executive of the world’s largest single operator of nuclear power plants, told reporters on Wednesday that a bid would be submitted on Dec. 10.

The French bid could send more information about the consortium to Abu Dhabi in coming days, one source close to the situation told Reuters, but would not confirm the Dec. 10 date.

Last month, Proglio blasted the French consortium for what he called its lack of coherence, so EDF taking a commanding role and the price cut could be seen as a late move to land the deal.

“EDF has been strongly encouraged, at the highest political levels, to take the lead of the pack,” said a second source close to the bid, who asked not to be named.


French newspaper Les Echos, citing no sources, reported on Wednesday that EDF could take a 45 percent stake in the project, with GDF Suez holding the same and Total 10 percent.

The two sources confirmed the details outlined by Les Echos, but one of them said “nothing was set in stone.”

“EDF was called to the rescue,” Les Echos said, adding that the board of EDF had met on this issue on Tuesday and that GDF Suez’s board would also meet later on Wednesday.

The consortium would not be expected to invest as part of this new plan, being paid by Abu Dhabi for their services instead, Les Echos said.

EDF and GDF Suez declined to comment.

Areva head Anne Lauvergeon told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday that 350 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity could be constructed between now and 2030, of which 20 to 25 percent will be in countries that do not currently have any nuclear plants. She reiterated Areva’s market share goal was a third of the newly constructed units. (Writing by Marie Maitre; Editing by David Cowell)