In Global Push, GE and Hitachi Nuclear Will Open New Sales Offices

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Nuclear power plantHitachi and General Electric (GE)'s nuclear power unit, GEH, will open five new sales offices around the world by the end of this year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"Many nations, especially in Asia and Europe, are turning to nuclear power to provide a carbon emissions-free source of energy," the Journal said, "and are opening multibillion-dollar bidding for the construction of new reactors or the replacement of aging plants."

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there were 437 nuclear power reactors in operation at the end of 2009 -- 339 of which had been in operation for more than 20 years. Nuclear energy supplies 16% of the world's electricity, according to GE. The IAEA estimates this will increase to a quarter of global electricity by 2050, the Journal says.

Hitachi and GE created two joint ventures in 2007 -- in Japan and in the U.S. -- to sell boiling water reactors. But the technology hasn't been picked up widely outside of Japan. In countries where nuclear power is well established, the existing technology used is considered reliable, and GEH found it challenging to convince customers to switch to another technology. The long lead time and high costs involved is another deterrent. Also, in France and Russia GEH is competing with major local suppliers like Areva SA (ARVCY) and Rosatom.

GEH believes it has better prospects in bidding for contracts in countries that want to introduce nuclear power for the first time, like Vietnam. The alliance plans to open two sales offices in Europe and one each in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, the Journal reports. And according to Hirotada Nagashima, department manager of Hitachi's Nuclear Business Planning & Management, GEH's target markets include the U.S., Vietnam, the U.K., Spain and Poland.
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