A visit to France by Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao saw the premier refer to a bid from French company Areva to construct four third-generation nuclear energy reactors in China at a cost of €6.8 billion.

According to local media, Wen said: “China hopes that France will offer more attractive conditions on technology transfer as well as price so that Franco-Chinese cooperation in this field can develop,”

The new follows reports that China has delayed a decision on the winning bidder for the contracts in the hope of securing better terms.

According to China Daily, Chen Hua, a director from the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said: “It is unlikely that the talks will be finalised by the end of this year as originally planned.” Refering to companies such as Areva and Westinghouse, which have submitted tender documentation, Hua said: “These companies haven’t given us satisfactory proposals on many key technical details, such as engineering and plant security,” adding: “Their price offers are still much higher than what we have budgeted for.”

China was originally to have announced a winner by the end of 2005 but this decision is not now expected until the first half of next year.

Contradicting recent media reports Chen also reportedly told China Daily: “We will not use different technologies at the two plants.”