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France's Areva lines up UK nuclear plant partners

* Rolls Royce, Balfour Beatty to work with France’s Areva

* Companies sign deals to build new UK nuclear plants

LONDON (Reuters) - Engine maker Rolls Royce RR.L and construction group Balfour Beatty BALF.L said on Thursday they had would work with French nuclear reactor builder Areva CEPFi.PA to build a new generation of British power stations.

The agreement cements growing Anglo-French cooperation to replace Britain's ageing nuclear power plants after France's EDF EDF.PA, the world's biggest nuclear energy producer, agreed in September to buy British Energy, and with it Britain's nuclear power industry, in a 12.5 billion pound ($18.4 billion) deal.

“Rolls-Royce and Areva have agreed a memorandum of understanding and will work together on supply chain development, manufacturing and engineering services,” Rolls Royce said in a statement.

In July, Rolls-Royce said it would rejig its nuclear business, which has a long history supporting Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet, to win business in the civil market where the UK plans a raft of new power stations to help minimise its reliance on imported fossil fuels.

“This is the welcome face of low carbon energy we’ll see more and more over the coming decades, opening up enormous potential for UK Plc at home and globally,” said British energy and climate change minister Mike O’Brien.

Balfour Beatty, which has already worked on existing nuclear power stations in the UK such as Sellafield, Sizewell B, Hunterston and Torness, said construction of the first new European pressurized reactor could begin as early as 2013.

“It is estimated that the nuclear programme could sustain between 10-15,000 jobs over a 25-year period,” Balfour Beatty said in a statement as it announced the deal with Areva which is majority owned by the French state.

The involvement of Rolls Royce and Balfour Beatty will help alleviate concerns about Britain’s nuclear industry falling wholly into foreign hands.

As part of September's deal selling British Energy to EDF, British Gas owner Centrica CNA.L said it was in talks with the French company to buy a 25 percent stake in British Energy.

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