Balfour Beatty and Rolls-Royce, both leading UK engineering companies, have signed partnership agreements with France's Areva to work together on programs to build new nuclear power plants in the UK.
Rolls-Royce announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work with Areva on supply chain development, manufacturing and engineering services. The latest agreement follows the September MoU between Rolls-Royce, along with BAE Systems, Doosan Babcock and Westinghouse to collaborate on building AP1000 nuclear plants in the UK. Earlier in the year, Rolls-Royce set up a new dedicated business group to focus on civil nuclear power work around the world.
The partnership between Areva and Balfour Beatty, an engineering, construction, services and investment group, also covers supply chain development as well as working to identify the skills and resources needed to deliver a fleet of Areva's EPR-design pressurized water reactors in the UK. Separately, Balfour Beatty has also formed a joint venture with Vinci Construction to help deliver project management, construction and civil engineering infrastructure for the UK EPR program. Balfour Beatty is to take the lead in civil, electrical & mechanical engineering as well as construction of new EPR power plants.
Andrew McNaughton, Group Managing Director of Balfour Beatty, said that in the initial phase of the agreement the partners would evaluate and establish over next four years the most cost-effective way of delivering nuclear power in UK.
The three-way partnership aims to engage with UK nuclear suppliers, working from 2009 to develop a qualified pool. Up to 40% of equipment for new power plants could come from UK firms, the trio said. Later, Balfour Beatty and Rolls-Royce intend to work globally as partners with Areva.
UK Energy and Climate Change minister Mike O'Brien greeted the Areva partnerships as good news: "It represents a vote of confidence by Areva in the UK new nuclear market and a vote of confidence in the UK supply chain," he said, describing it as "the welcome face of low carbon energy we'll see more and more over the coming decades."
O'Brien further reiterated his support for the Areva partnerships at a press conference held under the auspices of the UK Nuclear Industry Association's annual conference in London today. The UK, he said, needed to introduce "massive changes" in the way it produces energy, putting in place systems "for the longer term." Great risks lay in not employing nuclear energy, namely reliability of supply, rising carbon dioxide emissions and security of supply.
Electricité de France, currently in the process of buying UK nuclear generator British Energy (BE), has plans to build four EPRs at two new twin-unit power plants, Sizewell C and Hinkley Point C. The 1600 MWe units would contribute 13% of UK electricity in the early 2020s.
In addition, two new UK nuclear plants are included in German utility EOn's long term plans. EOn has already announced the EPR as its preferred technology for future UK nuclear power plant projects. Plans are still at an early stage with no site formally selected, although EOn's Andrew Barrow confirmed to World Nuclear News that the company would prefer to utilise existing nuclear sites to greenfield sites. The sale of other BE sites, and those held by the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, are ongoing.