HELSINKI/MOSCOW Russia's state nuclear energy monopoly will partner with Finnish utility Fortum FUM1V.HE and Britain's Rolls Royce (RR.L) to seek UK approval to sell its reactors in Britain, the company said on Thursday.
Despite lingering doubts in Europe over Russian technology since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, Rosatom is increasingly bidding for major tenders on the continent and has voiced interest in entering the British market after German and British utility firms dropped out.
The Russian company said it also signed a memorandum of understanding with British Energy Minister Michael Fallon in Moscow on Thursday, taking it a step closer toward that goal.
While Germany and other countries are turning away from nuclear energy in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011, Britain remains determined to build atomic capacity, which now provides about 20 percent of its electricity at nine plants.
"The parties consider the UK energy market to be an attractive opportunity, as most of the operating UK NPP (nuclear power plant) fleet is planned to be decommissioned in the medium term," Rosatom said in a statement.
Fortum, which operates the Soviet-built Loviisa reactor in Finland, said the parties would look into how Rosatom's VVER nuclear reactor could be adapted and licensed for the British market, but said it had not made any investment decisions yet.
However, a Rosatom senior executive told Reuters earlier this year that the Russian nuclear giant was unlikely to apply before 2015 for a license from British regulators, an expensive process that takes about four years to complete.
The British government has earmarked at least eight new sites, and developers such as France's EDF (EDF.PA), Japan's Hitachi (6501.T) and a joint venture of Spain's Iberdrola (IBE.MC) and France's GDF Suez GSZ.PA have proposed plans to build up to 16 gigawatts of new nuclear power capacity by 2025.
Rosatom told Reuters last month that it is closely watching to see whether EDF reaches a deal with the British government on a guaranteed minimum power price for its proposed Hinkley Point project, Britain's first new nuclear plant in almost 20 years, before it enters the UK market.
(Reporting by Terhi Kinnunen and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; editing by James Jukwey)