November 29, 2017 / 10:24 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-France's EDF plans to bid in Saudi Arabia nuclear tender -sources

* First two of several reactors

* Capacity range specifications include 1,600 MW EPR reactor

* EDF lost Abu Dhabi tender in 2009 (Adds detail from second source)

By Reem Shamseddine and Geert De Clercq

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia/PARIS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - French state-controlled utility EDF intends to take part in a tender to build two nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia, which wants to reduce domestic oil consumption, is considering building 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear-fuelled power generation capacity by 2032 and has sent a request for information to international suppliers to build two reactors.

With answers to the request due by the end 2017 or early 2018, a formal tender could be launched by mid-2018, but more likely toward the end of 2018 or early 2019, industry specialists say.

Saudi Arabia’s nuclear plans are some of the largest in an industry struggling with weaker demand following Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Russian and South Korean companies have said they plan to bid and sources have told Reuters that Toshiba-owned U.S. firm Westinghouse is in talks with U.S. peers to form a bidding consortium.

EDF has held talks with Saudi Arabia about selling Areva-designed European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) but has not publicly confirmed it will bid.

“EDF wants to participate in the process launched for Saudi Arabia,” a source familiar with the situation said.

EDF wants to assist the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), the government agency tasked with the nuclear programme, in drafting its nuclear newbuild programme, the source said.

A second source said that EDF would bid in the tender and that EDF officials had visited KACARE last week to discuss the request for information and to give a presentation about the EPR reactor.

EDF declined to comment. KACARE could not be reached for immediate comment.

Last month, a Saudi nuclear official told a conference in Abu Dhabi that for the first two reactors the kingdom is considering reactor models in the 1,000-1,600 megawatt (MW) range.

The EPR, the world’s largest reactor model, has a capacity of 1,600 MW.

EPRs under construction in France, Finland and China are years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget.

EDF hopes that by late 2018-early 2019 at least two should be operational.

Taking part in the Saudi tender would underline that EDF still believes in the capital-intensive nuclear export business despite the strains on its balance sheet.

Industry experts say EDF - which this month dropped a pledge to become cash-flow positive by 2018 - could struggle to raise the equity needed to mount a bid.

For its project to build two EPR reactors in Hinkley Point in Britain, a deal signed last year, EDF put together an 18 billion pound ($24 billion) debt and equity financing package.

Areva and EDF in 2009 lost to South Korea’s KEPCO in a bid for four nuclear reactors in United Arab Emirates. KEPCO secured a $24.4 billion financing package for that project.

$1 = 0.7459 pounds Writing by Geert De Clercq; editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely

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