( AFP ) - France's Areva said it had agreed on Monday with China to deliver two third-generation nuclear reactors to the energy hungry nation in a deal worth eight billion euros (11.9 billion dollars).
"It's a record. In the history of the civilian nuclear industry, there's never been a deal of this magnitude," Areva chief executive Anne Lauvergeon told reporters.
The deal, to be formally signed later Monday, ends months of expectations that China would buy two European Pressurised water Reactors, or EPRs, from Areva. They will be delivered by the end of 2013 and 2015, respectively.
" China is one of the most exciting markets. China is accelerating its nuclear development, and it's important to be part of this competition," Lauvergeon said.
China earlier this year signed an agreement with US-based Westinghouse Electric Co for four nuclear power reactors, in a deal reported at the time to be worth eight billion dollars.
Areva was to formally sign its agreement with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) around 0330 GMT as part of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to China.
Sarkozy, who arrived on Sunday for a three-day visit, held official talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday morning, after the pair met informally the previous night.
Areva and CGNPC also had agreed to set up a company that will operate the two EPRs, in southern China, according to a second agreement in force until 2026.
In a third deal, CGNPC will take over 35 percent in the operations of three African uranium mines which Areva gained control over this summer after acquiring Canadian uranium producer UraMin.
For the EPRs, CGNPC agreed to pay half the eight billion euros in the European currency, and the other half in US dollars, giving Areva better protection against currency risk.
Sources involved in the talks characterised this as "significant", since China usually deals almost exclusively in the American currency.