Blowing Up Now: The Transfer Of French Nuclear Technology To China

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

Technology transfers, whether on a contractual basis or through theft, have long bedeviled companies that want to benefit from China’s cheap labor and 1.3 billion consumers. Automakers, aerospace companies, technology outfits.... it’s the price they have to pay. But when it seeped out that the largely state-owned nuclear industry in France was trying to sell its secrets to China to make a deal, oh là là!

That the French have been through this with their high-speed train technology, the TGV, was hammered home on Wednesday when China opened the world’s longest high-speed rail line—1,428 miles between Beijing and Guangzhou. It extended the high-speed rail network to 5,800 miles. And the network will practically double over the next three years if government funding continues to flow. By comparison, it will take the US, or more precisely California, an unknown number of years, perhaps as many as 20, to complete the link between San Francisco and Los Angeles [California’s High-Speed Rail to Nowhere].

On the Beijing-Guangzhou line, trains will run at a maximum speed of 186 mph, specs that the TGV mastered decades ago. Initially, China struggled to develop its own technology. After it tripped badly, it decided to import some trains, and the missing technology, from Japan, Germany, and France.

They all got a piece of the pie. Alstom of France won an order for 60 sets of its latest tilt-technology trains, the Pendolino. Three were delivered fully assembled; six were delivered in kits and assembled by an entity of China National Rail; and the remainder were manufactured in China with some imported components and a lot of transferred technology. And that was mostly it for TGV sales in China. Now, China has the ability to manufacture its own trains. It’s pushing the technology to the next level. And it will become a formidable anywhere in the world, even in California.

Nuclear energy—where France has also been proudly on the forefront—was going to be next. Until the scandal of massive nuclear-technology transfers broke into the open. The central figure, Henri Proglio, CEO of mega-utility EDF that owns France’s 58 active nuclear reactors but derives almost half of its revenues from outside France, has come under investigation by the Inspector General of Finance (IGF). Of particular interest: the agreement to sell nuclear and industrial secrets and knowhow to China in order to conclude a deal that had been “aborted.”

On Thursday, the government announced that it would try to shed some light on the relationship between the French nuclear industry and its Chinese partners. And on Friday, it was leaked that the government, which owns 84.4% of EDF, will sack Proglio in February or March and replace him with the CEO of state-owned railroad SNCF, Guillaume Pépy, who immediately denied being “candidate for anything.” The revolving door of state-owned companies.

The intrigue goes back years. In January 2012, during the presidential campaign, a confidential agreement bubbled up, signed in Beijing on April 29, 2010, by Proglio and He Yu, the CEO of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC). It envisioned a tight partnership concerning the “design” of nuclear reactors and the transfer of nuclear technologies—to the point where Chinese specialists would be associated with the construction of reactors ... in France.

The Socialists, including Jean-Marc Ayrault who would become Prime Minister, raised a ruckus: A Chinese company might soon build nuclear power plants in France? Areva, the government-owned nuclear conglomerate and crown jewel of French nuclear technology, might soon have to compete with a Chinese company for reactors in France? A shock too many for the battered “Made in France,” which had become a campaign issue.

Then, on April 19, 2012, just three days before the presidential elections, after more embarrassing details made it into the media, Finance Minister François Baroin put a hold on that contract. Turns out, apparently, EDF would hand over secrets about France’s entire stock of nuclear power plants to the Chinese. Nevertheless, in October, after the storm had settled, EDF, Areva, and CGNPC signed a contract. It remains confidential. Nothing has leaked out.

The unions were particularly worried. They demanded transparency concerning the technology transfers. They feared the effects on employment in the nuclear energy industry. They feared that much of it might shift to China.

Now, the government might be having second thoughts. The IGF is intensely interested in the first agreement between EDF and CGNPC that defined a partnership whose goal it was to build nuclear power plants together. The plants would be equipped with a new reactor type, the latest and greatest alternative to the catastrophically over-budget and now stalled European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) that Areva had been pushing for years. That EDF, which was mostly government-owned, could even envision a deal that would hurt Areva, which was wholly government-owned, was simply too galling.

Simultaneously, there was another fight in France. A tiny street-theater company decided to attack an evil American multinational giant. But there are complications: political connections, government subsidies, Coca-Cola commercialism, perhaps world domination, and awesome art. Read.... French Artists Strike Out Against Evil American Empire.

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Lord Koos's picture

So what -- it's power plant tech, not  weapons tech.  Big deal.

BigInJapan's picture

Where the fuck do you think Plutonium comes from, the 7-11?

true brain's picture

no worry. it is a part of a master plan. give chinese complex and dangerous nuclear technology and they will end up poluting their entire country soon. there arr embedded bugs in design that chincoms are too dumb or corrupt to figure out thus ensuring their own anhilation. you dont think the french are that dumb or naive do you. dig deeper and cia fingerprints are all over it. dumb chincom. wwiii has started.

DosZap's picture

Clitton gave away the farm when he gave the Chinese the CRAY SUPER COMPUTER technology.

Until then, their ICBM's were erratic in accuracy, and only capable of reaching the West coast.

Been downhill ever since. Now they can hit anywhere they want with the same accuracy as US.

phyuckyiu's picture

Thanks for the tip DZ, I found this article that backs up everything you said. We've been sold out since before Clinton but nice to know obscure shit like this.

taxpayer102's picture


Similar technology "transfer" occurred when Motorola shutdown U.S. facilities and plants then announced it was building four new engineering and manufacturing facilities in China.   After laying off hundreds of people in early 2000s Motorola's chip plant in Mesa, AZ was demolished in 2004-2005, as documented in pictures :

orangegeek's picture

The french are just whoring the last of their valuable assets because their country is dead in the water.  Love those socialists.


BattlegroundEurope2011's picture

France is Energy resource rich by btw...oh wait....

knukles's picture

Quality shit.
They build 50 story skyscrapers in 3 weeks

YesWeKahn's picture

Every nation thinks that the other nation is evil.

When can Americans, Frenchs, Chineses grow up and can finally live with friendly neighbors?

BigInJapan's picture

It's called competition.
Suck on it.

foxmuldar's picture

And who are those friendly neighbors?


TrustWho's picture

...because we all compete for resources!

1eyedman's picture

if the chinese are as good at adopting nuclea-reactor tech as they are bullet train should facilitate their real estate crash, at a minimum.    but hey, a handful of irradiated cities only means they have to build new empty cities, moar jobs, economic growth!

Peter Pan's picture

Nuclear power plants are just another example of where governments go where others fear to tread. The amount of insurance cover provided by the private sector and the operators is laughable and the potential liability taken on by governments is humungous.

The Chinese would be wise to look at Fukushima and ponder the true costs.

steve from virginia's picture



Just wait until one of those French reactors pops. They've come close a couple of times.


All those French assholes will be singing a different song ... as a large part of France is rendered uninhabitable for 300 years or more ...


Question: when do the executions begin?

bilejones's picture

as a large part of France is rendered uninhabitable for 300 years or more ...


Large part of Germany actually. The winds come from the west and the plants are largely close to the German border.

Element's picture

Guys! guys! ... I'm shocked! ... how quickly you all forget about close allies, USSA and the unwashed Frenchy, flying shoulder to shoulder over Libya, and bombing the crap out of imaginary baddies, while fantasizing about the people they'd heroically saved and sustained in freedum from the great tent of all that's evil.  That's got to count for something?!

Lest we forget

rsnoble's picture

300years?  It only took Tokyo 30 days.  Inhale deeply, it's good for you.

Joe A's picture

America's wet dream: something bad happening to these evil French.

BattlegroundEurope2011's picture

Thats all the thanks they get and they gave you the Statue of Liberty.  You ungrates.

DosZap's picture

Thats all the thanks they get and they gave you the Statue of Liberty. You ungrates.

And, we saved their ass in WWII, and what treatment do we get now?.( to the point where all the American dead from that war, bodies have been openly disussed as needing to be repatriated to US Soil?.WHO IS THE INGRATE HERE???

The Statue was in a different time, in a much younger America,and a more friendly France.

Ghordius's picture

yeah, but just lately the French refused to go and hunt for WMDs in Iraq. luckily Bush II and Blair found them, and the French are chastised for their gall of doubting the the Emperor and his Darth

Liberty Fries and Freedom Kisses, Liberty Fries and Freedom Kisses

Old Poor Richard's picture

Selling your trade secrets for a quick buck is so American.  Not surprised the French are willing to copy with Eurotrash banksters waging economic (and violent) war on the poor in Africa while colluding with their communist state-bankster counterparts in China to bankrupt the west of its real assets--innovation and skilled labor.  (Not to mention selling China all our gold.) 

The sinister elites are now firmly in the endgame in their minds: they don't think about the consequences farther out than their own life expectancy believing the world is going to implode.  But the world will go on, and we can either take these bastards out to save our children's legacy or let them get away with their crimes.  It's a choice, not something inevitable we have to passively accept.

Kayman's picture

Selling the rope that the Chinese will hang your children (with).

The invitation to the Chinese party requires selling your soul.

Arthur's picture

I think nothing short of an enforced death penalty will slow the technology transferes to China

The death penalty should be on the company at issue and criminal liability on individuals involved. Heck the NCAA can do it, why not the Feds and other Western governments.  I suggest legislation to strip patents from companies engaging in tech transfers as an easy start.

Nukes are serios sh*t as was the attack helicopter the info from the Canadian company Bell.  The US military and government did nothing to Bell and continues to deal with them.  One day we could be facing the technology in a conflict.

Must say though that if I were Chinese I would be buying, begging and stealing as much as possible.  There has been no downside.

Technology theft has been a crime throughout time.  Remember the Whitney cotton gin?  The Chinese are not particularly evil, they are just  out smarting us and using the typical short term western time horizon against us.  The shame is that so many of realize what is going on but both the D&R's lack the will d do much of anything.


shovelhead's picture

Nukes on the ground?

No big deal.

Clinton OKed the tech for sattelites that can work for nukes in the air.

Very big deal.

Maik sum goo- Free delivery.