Consultant sees break-up of government’s nuclear arm as chance to strengthen market position

Consultant EC Harris is in talks with the government over acquiring part of British Nuclear Group.

EC Harris has entered a formal expression of interest for part of BNG, the government’s nuclear operator. It is understood that the business in question would enable EC Harris to develop a construction capacity.

News of the talks comes amid growing conviction that the government is determined to break up British Nuclear Group, rather than selling it to a single bidder. Last week BNG’s parent, British Nuclear Fuels, rejected a £400m offer for the entire organisation from US engineer Fluor.

BNFL says the divisions initially up for sale are project services, the specialist nuclear contracting business and the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s shareholding at Aldermaston, Berkshire. The strategy for selling the remainder of BNG and the associated competition for the Sellafield and other reactor sites is still thought to be

under discussion with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Amec and Atkins are among other firms linked with the break-up of BNG.

EC Harris has been strengthening its position in the nuclear market over the past year. This summer the firm formed a joint venture with consultant Turner & Townsend to secure work providing project management services at Sellafield, in Cumbria, for BNG.

The link-up between the two is the first big alliance within the UK construction industry aimed specifically at nuclear work. It is understood that many other firms are considering similar partnerships with UK and foreign firms if the government does take the nuclear option.

A source close to the move said: “We want to increase our offering to give us more chance of being involved across the lifespan of a new-build programme. The breakup and sale of BNG could offer us the chance to do that.”

EC Harris declined to comment.
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