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China Wants 100 Westinghouse Reactors

June 30, 2008

By Bonnie Pfister, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jun. 28–China wants to have 100 of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s nuclear reactors in operation or under construction by 2020 — more than double what was anticipated, according to the company’s incoming CEO.

Aris Candris, who will lead the Monroeville-based firm beginning Tuesday, said Chinese officials shared those plans with Westinghouse during a mid-May meeting.

“It is huge,” Candris said in an interview Thursday with the Tribune-Review. “Originally we were thinking somewhere around 40.”

“This is the beginning of the nuclear renaissance,” he said. “Growth is good, but it’s also a management challenge.”

He succeeds Steve Tritch, who is retiring after 37 years with the company, the past six as CEO. Tritch remains chairman of the board of Westinghouse, a global leader in reactor engineering, construction and maintenance. Westinghouse’s technology is the basis for nearly half of the world’s 440 nuclear power plants, including 62 of the 104 in the United States.

Candris, 57, who joined the company in 1975 and most recently ran the fuel business, takes over as the industry enjoys renewed support and federal subsidies meant to promote a cleaner alternative to coal-burning plants.

Its AP1000 reactor, which can generate enough power to electrify 700,000 homes, is the technology of choice for half of the 30 reactors planned for the United States. This spring Westinghouse signed deals for four domestic reactors, the first such contracts to be signed in this country in 30 years.

Last year the company beat out French rival Areva to win a $5.3 billion contract to build four AP1000s in China. Although Westinghouse will transfer the technology to Chinese licensees over the next few years, Candris said, it will build several additional plants with partner The Shaw Group, of Baton Rouge, La.

Westinghouse books higher revenue from plants it actually builds, but the licensing strategy frees the company to pursue research and development.

“There are a number of entities over the years that we have licensed — Areva, Mitsubishi in Japan, Doosan in Korea. In all cases, those became long-term relationships, with long-term benefits for both,” Candris said.

Design will begin this year on a 1,700-megawatt reactor, he said, that could be targeted to energy-hungry China and eventually India.

Plans for domestic reactor construction are moving briskly. Candris said contracts for two AP1000s each at three Southeastern U.S. utilities will be signed in the next nine months; the first deal is likely by summer’s end. He said he was not worried that soaring costs of steel, copper and cement would hurt his industry, because those costs equally affect construction of other kinds of power plants.

Growth has prompted Westinghouse to hire nearly 3,000 people worldwide over the past three years, he said, and the Monroeville office is at capacity. About 350 instrumentation and control staffers last month moved to rented space in Cranberry, adjacent to a Westinghouse headquarters under construction. The 2,000 or so Monroeville staffers are to relocate next June.

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