China says Westinghouse bankruptcy won't have big impact on nuclear plans

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s State Power Investment Corp said Westinghouse’s bankruptcy filing would not have a “substantial impact” on the country’s nuclear plans and the two sides would ensure a key AP1000 reactor project would be completed on schedule this year.

The project is the world’s first Westinghouse-designed AP1000 reactor project, being built at Sanmen on China’s eastern coast, and is one of four reactors planned with State Power.

“The two sides were fully aware of the importance of the Chinese AP1000 project and agreed to continue to make the project a common priority and increase investment to ensure that the target of putting the reactor into operation this year is met,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

The first AP1000 was due to be completed in 2014, but construction was subject to delays as a result of design problems as well as a nationwide review of the nuclear industry following the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Westinghouse hoped the AP1000 would become the centerpiece of China’s ambitious nuclear strategy, and expected to win dozens of new projects.

But industry sources said the Pittsburgh-based firm underestimated China’s ability to develop its own home-brand third-generation designs, with China’s own “Hualong 1” reactor selected over the AP1000 for a number of domestic nuclear projects.

A senior Chinese nuclear industry official said earlier this month that the reactor was still scheduled to go into full operation in the second half of 2017.

“The restructuring application by Westinghouse will not have a substantial impact on third generation reactor work such as the construction of the AP1000, the subsequent construction of a batch of CAP1000 reactors or the CAP1400 demonstration project,” the company said, referring to its homegrown third-generation reactor designs.

Westinghouse, owned by Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday as a result of billions of dollars of cost overruns at four reactors under construction in the United States.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Edwina Gibbs