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INTERVIEW-GE Hitachi can have new UK nuclear plant ready by 2023

* JV to reinforce presence in Europe by opening new offices

* Economic slowdown to end in 2015 - GE Hitachi VP Roderick

(Updates throughout)

LONDON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - GE Hitachi could have a new nuclear plant commercially operational in Britain by 2023, Senior Vice President of GE Hitachi’s Nuclear Plant Projects, Daniel Roderick, told Reuters on Friday.

“We can start a plant in 2023,” Roderick said on the sidelines of a nuclear conference in London.

The nuclear joint venture between U.S. firm General Electric GE.N and Japan's Hitachi 6501.T is planning to submit design details for its ESBWR nuclear reactor to the UK's nuclear regulator in June 2011, once it has finalised approval for EDF's EPR and Westinghouse's AP1000 designs.

“While we might be a little late coming into the UK as far as we start, when we can finish is the important part of the plant,” Roderick said.

“With our advanced modular construction techniques that we use it’s going to put us in a good position.”

The reactor builder said it is in talks with European utilities, such as Spain’s Iberdrola and Germany’s RWE, which are interested in building nuclear power plants in Britain.

GE Hitachi is also looking to reinforce its existing working relationships with British firms such as Rolls Royce and Skanska to support its nuclear construction programme in Britain.

“We already have a pretty large supply chain that comes out of the UK, there’s a lot of good companies in the UK, but it will depend on the customer’s preferences,” Roderick said.

GE Hitachi will focus much of its resources on the European market in future, aiming at opening new offices in the region to benefit from the growing interest in building new nuclear power stations to help governments meet carbon emission cut targets.

“There will be a larger presence here in Europe,” Roderick said, adding he could see two new GE Hitachi offices being opened in Europe.

“I’m very very bullish on Europe, I like it a lot. Europe is showing some really quick signs that its recovery is coming, maybe more in northern Europe than southern Europe,” he said.

Globally, the recession has pushed the development of nuclear power stations back by two to three years, and in the U.S. by as much as five years, Roderick said.

“If you’re looking at 2015, this cycle will end and a new cycle will start. The plants will all be certified, all good to go, so when the need comes they can be built,” he added.

(Editing by James Jukwey)

((daniel.fineren@reuters.com; +44 207 542 3083; Reuters Messaging: daniel.fineren.reuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: BRITAIN NUCLEAR/NEW

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