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China still pursuing nuclear fuel processing plant with France's Areva: official

Vice minister says commercial negotiations 'almost concluded'

Beijing

CHINA is still actively promoting a nuclear fuel processing project with France's Areva, the head of its nuclear safety watchdog said at a briefing on Tuesday, where he also criticised a US blacklisting of Chinese nuclear firms.

Commercial negotiations on the Areva project are "almost concluded", Liu Hua, the head of the National Nuclear Safety Administration and vice minister of ecology and environment, said at the briefing to introduce China's first white paper on nuclear safety.

"In addition to commercial negotiation, what is going on is that the two countries are harmonising safety standards ... and stepping up regulation cooperation," Mr Liu added. "So on this particular project as far as I know it is proceeding smoothly. It is underway and I believe that soon ... there will be progress."

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A formal go-ahead for the reprocessing plant would be a major boost for Areva, which has been discussing the project, valued at some US$12 billion, for more than a decade.

Mr Liu gave no indication whether a site had already been selected for the project, which has been repeatedly delayed, with a previously proposed venue in Lianyungang, in eastern China's Jiangsu province, cancelled after protests.

Asked about a recent US blacklisting of Chinese nuclear firms, Mr Liu said the Chinese side condemned the move and noted that US multilateralism and protectionism would harm both countries' interests.

Washington last month moved to block state-run China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) and its subsidiaries from dealing with US companies as they were alleged to be involved in activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. Mr Liu also said the move would lead Chinese firms to step up their own research and development and investment. REUTERS