Areva, Rolls-Royce unveil nuclear reactor deal

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French nuclear group Areva and Rolls-Royce agreed a deal Friday for the British engineering firm to manufacture components for reactors in Britain which is renewing its ageing network of nuclear plants.

Areva said the agreement could be expanded to cover nuclear projects in other countries.

Its chief executive Anne Lauvergeon said the deal would make Rolls-Royce one of its "major industrial partners".

The agreement was part of Areva's aim to build "solid relationships with a series of international companies that can work with us globally", she added.

"We look forward to sharing processes, knowledge and skills to ensure that UK industry can perform a key role in manufacturing the new plants to be built in Britain and abroad," Lauvergeon said.

Robert Davies, vice-president of new builds, Areva UK, said the deal involved "complex, high-precision pieces that are at the heart of the Areva nuclear reactors".

The components will be used in the so-called third generation of reactors which are considerably safer than their predecessors, he told BBC radio.

Davies denied Areva was only entering into the deal with Rolls-Royce because it needed to work with a British company to win the contract.

"We have partnerships with major manufacturing companies in Japan, USA, China and India and the UK new build programme, which is some eight to 12 reactors, is frankly huge and we need all the help we can get.

"That is the rationale for bringing Rolls-Royce in."

The deal is a boost for Rolls-Royce, which continues to experience problems in its aviation business after one of its engines on the A380 superjumbos exploded minutes into a Qantas flight in November last year.

Britain's minister for trade and investment, Lord Stephen Green, hailed the announcement as "a great step forward for the civil nuclear industry in the UK".

Areva will build the nuclear steam generating systems for the first four European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) which are planned for construction in Britain by French energy giant EDF.

Areva is also competing to construct up to six further reactors in Britain.

Up to 80 percent of the manufacturing of the auxiliary equipment could be available to British companies, Areva said in a statement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has rubber-stamped the 2008 decision by its Labour predecessors to renew the country's nuclear power stations.

© 2011 AFP

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