BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States is committed to working with China on the development of new nuclear reactors in both countries and will also encourage joint bids for projects elsewhere, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in Beijing on Wednesday.
"Nuclear collaboration played an important role in our visit and deservedly so," said Moniz, speaking to journalists in a briefing after a series of meetings with senior Chinese energy officials.
Moniz said the U.S.-based Westinghouse, one of the world's leading nuclear firms, was prepared to bid for reactor tenders in Britain with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and the State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC).
"There is an explicit collaboration with Westinghouse...and the issue of joining together in terms of a British tender is part of that."
Despite scaling back its plans in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, China still aims to raise its total nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, up from just 12.6 GW now, and foreign reactor builders like Westinghouse and France's Areva SA (AREVA.PA) have been competing fiercely for new projects.
China's ambitious state-owned nuclear firms also hope to use the growing domestic market as a springboard to global domination, with plans to sell homegrown reactor designs and technologies throughout the world.
CNNC's major rival, China General Nuclear Power (CGN), made the first move earlier this month, teaming up with France's EDF (EDF.PA) in a 16-billion pound ($25.69 billion) deal to construct two third-generation European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) in southwest England.
Two EPRs, designed by Areva, are currently being constructed by CGN in southeast China's Guangdong province.
Westinghouse, owned by Japan's Toshiba (6502.T), is working on the design and construction of its own third-generation AP1000 reactor with SNPTC, with the world's first ever unit due to go into operation in China by the end of this year. The AP1000 serves as the model for China's own homegrown CAP1400 design following a 2006 technology transfer agreement.
"What we are seeing is a very close relationship with SNPTC in the design and construction of generation three technology, and it is fundamentally the same generation three technology that is being applied to four plants in China right now and to four plants in the southeastern United States," said Moniz.
"Westinghouse and SNPTC are collaborating in developing both the U.S. and the Chinese supply chains for these nuclear projects. SNPTC plays a lead role in China and an analogous role in the United States as an EPC contractor, and that will continue."
($1 = 0.6228 British pounds)
Reporting by David Stanway