Contractor Amec has formed an alliance with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and nuclear decommissioning specialist CH2M Hill to pitch for work in the UK's £56bn nuclear clean-up market.

Twenty civil nuclear sites are being opened to competition by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Work on the long-term clean-up operation is estimated to be worth £2bn a year.

About half of these sites are expected to be bid for by the end of 2008. One of the first contracts to go out to tender will be the clean-up of Drigg, a repository for low-level nuclear waste in Cumbria.

The partners will also explore international opportunities such as the multibillion-pound markets in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, building on the alliance partners' experience in these areas.

The move will enable UKAEA, a public sector company that has led a significant share of the UK's nuclear clean-up work, to compete on a stronger basis. It responds to the government's decision to open this market to competition.

Sir Peter Mason, chief executive of Amec, said: "This team has the right blend of nuclear and commercial skills to win a sizeable slice of the £2bn a year market."

CH2M Hill is an American firm that specialises in nuclear decommissioning.

It recently completed the shutdown of Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons facility near Denver, Colorado.