French engineering firm Areva is lining up its supply chain to ensure effective delivery of EPR-based nuclear build projects in the UK.

Areva has reached agreements with two UK-based firms covering engineering, manufacturing and construction, and says it will work with its partners to identify the skills required and develop an ‘upskilling’ programme.

Germany’s E.On and French utility EDF are both intending to build new nuclear power plants in the UK based on EPR technology. The UK government wants new nuclear capacity to be on-line by 2020 to ensure the adequate provision of baseload capacity.

E.On is in the process of creating a joint UK-based team with staff from Areva and Siemens that will take forward the development of two EPR projects. EDF says it wants to develop four new nuclear power plants in the UK and partnered with Areva for the APR’s generic design assessment application to the UK authorities.

Areva’s latest partnerships have been forged with construction firm Balfour Beatty and Rolls-Royce, which has a strong nuclear engineering skills set based on contracts with the British Navy. The French firm says that the next step is to identify the UK’s industrial landscape and the local skills and resources required to deliver a fleet of EPRs.

Areva intends to set clear milestones for the industrial action plan and says that significant progress must be made in the next 12 months to ensure project delivery. Filling the skills ‘gap’ may be one of its greatest challenges.

The UK’s new nuclear build programme could be as much as 25 GW and will help to overcome the twin challenges of energy security and climate change, according to the government. The UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has already started the process of land sales to potential developers of new nuclear power stations.

Engineering firm Rolls-Royce earlier this year set up a dedicated business unit to address the global civil nuclear power market, which it believes could be worth £50 billion in 50 years’ time. It currently has the largest nuclear skills set of any UK company, with around 2000 specialist nuclear-focused employees and a supply chain of 260 suppliers.

Areva is also developing a supply chain in the USA, where several new nuclear plants are to be built in the next decade. It announced in November that it has joined forces with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding to build a new manufacturing and engineering facility in Virginia to build heavy components for the US EPR.

It has also won a contract to manage the Yucca Mountain nuclear fuel repository project in Nevada, and is constructing a state-of-the-art uranium enrichment facility in Idaho.

Recent analysis by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s indicated that the lack of experienced nuclear engineers and construction workers would be a key risk factor for developers building new nuclear power plants in the US. It believes that developers will have to lure experienced personnel from overseas in order to execute projects successfully.