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UK: Areva sets out its nuclear stall

France's Areva is stepping up the drive to win orders for its European Pressurised-water Reactor (EPR) in the UK

Last month, the company announced agreements with two UK engineering firms, Balfour Beatty and Rolls-Royce, covering engineering, manufacturing and construction of new nuclear reactors, including the provision of skill and supply chain requirements. Areva says the country's nuclear construction programme could be as large as 25 gigawatts, indicating a market for about 15 reactors.

With two of the original four companies positioning to design the UK's new fleet of reactors having dropped out, Areva is adopting a confident stance. The firm says the EPR is the only Generation III+ reactor in construction – the first to start up, delayed to 2012, should be the unit being built at Olkiluoto, Finland, for TVO. This will be followed by a unit being built at Flamanville, France, for Electricité de France (EdF), and work has started on two at Taishan in Guangdong province, China.

Areva's prospects in the UK are aided by its partnership with EdF, aimed at winning design approval for the EPR. EdF is in the course of acquiring British Energy, the UK's main nuclear generator, with eight nuclear stations, and it has outlined plans for new construction. Areva also has a partnership with Germany's E.On under which the firms plan to develop "at least two" EPRs in the UK.

Four companies started the UK's Generic Design Assessment process, but two withdrew during 2008 – Atomic Energy of Canada, for the ACR 1000, and GE-Hitachi, for the ESBWR. Areva's rival is Toshiba, owner of Westinghouse, which is seeking approval for its AP 1000 design.

In November, Westinghouse set up a subsidiary to pursue orders in the UK. Earlier, the firm signed agreements with BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Doosan Babcock covering co-operation in design, fabrication and construction. Westinghouse says the AP 1000 is the only Generation III+ design to have gained approval in the US. Four are planned for China and four in the US.

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