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New Nuclear: Balfour Beatty and Areva sign deal to deliver EPR reactors

French nuclear reactor builder Areva today announced it would work with Balfour Beatty and Rolls Royce to deliver a fleet of its European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) at sites across the UK.

Areva's EPR design, backed by French generator EDF, is currently making its way through the Government's Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for new reactors, which aims to ensure only one or two reactor designs are used across all new nuclear plants in the UK.

Areva president Luc Oursel said: "The UK new build programme could be as large as 20 to 25 GW. E.ON, like EDF, has decided to participate in this programme. That's why we need to start now to forge the UK industrial landscape to ensure we have the right people, the right skills and the right industrial infrastructure to realise our UK EPR projects. We are delighted to have partners of such high quality as Balfour Beatty and Rolls-Royce to work with us preparing the ground."

Balfour Beatty will work with AREVA to identify the skills and resources required to deliver a fleet of EPRs and to put an effective supply chain in place.

Balfour Beatty chief executive Ian Tyler said: "Balfour Beatty has a strong heritage in the nuclear sector and the breadth and depth of expertise to deliver large and complex multi-disciplinary engineering and construction projects. We look forward to working together to deliver the EPR programme over the long term."

The deal cements growing Anglo-French co-operation on a new generation of nuclear power stations, with EDF set to take over eight of the UK's ten operational nuclear plants with its £12.5bn takeover of British Energy.

"[This] represents a vote of confidence by AREVA in the UK new nuclear market and a vote of confidence in the UK supply chain," said Department of Energy and Climate Change minister Mike O’Brien.

"Partnership with two of our biggest companies, Rolls Royce and Balfour Beatty, will provide up to 15,000 British manufacturing and construction jobs for 25 years."

German-owned generator E.ON, meanwhile, has announced its intentions to deliver new nuclear in the UK and is supporting both Areva and Westinghouse's reactor designs currently being assessed by the Government.

The Government's GDA process is currently in its second phase, with GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR and Toshiba-Westinghouse’s AP1000 the other reactors being assessed alongside Areva's EPR.

The GDA process was devised in order to avoid the costly decommissioning process that the UK is experiencing with its first generation of nuclear power plants, in which no two reactors are the same. A final decision on which reactors will be used in new nuclear plants is expected in 2011.

In a separate development, Balfour Beatty has also formed a joint venture with VINCI Construction to help deliver project management, construction and civil engineering infrastructure for the EPR programme in the UK.

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