Consortium is preferred bidder on new nuclear package as firms await £2.5bn earthworks shortlist

A joint venture of Bam Nuttall and Kier has been selected as the preferred developer on the first £100m civil engineering job for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley, Somerset, Building understands.

French utility company EDF, which is building the £5bn station, the first in the UK for 25 years, is understood to have told all the other bidders for the job it is now working with Kier and Bam Nuttall to finalise a deal.

The news is doubly significant as it comes as EDF prepares to shortlist two or three consortiums for the main £2.5bn earthworks job for the plant, with this decision expected by the end of March.

It is also planning to shortlist two contractors for the “marine” works, which consists of digging 9km of tunnels, in April.

EDF declined to comment on the selection process, but it is understood Kier and Bam Nuttall saw off competition from consortiums of Balfour Beatty with Vinci, and Costain with Sir Robert McAlpine to win the work.

A source close to the process said Kier and Bam were selected on the basis that their final price was lower than £100m.

It had been thought the contract, which has been twice rescoped and retendered by EDF, could be worth up to £180m.

The source said: “The question is whether they’ll be able to repeat the full scope for that price. I imagine that’s what they’re talking about.”

The source added it was understood a final deal will not be signed with Kier and Bam, which are also working with engineer URS, until the local council approves EDF’s planning application for preparatory works, submitted in November 2010.

West Somerset council expects a large chunk of EDF’s investment to go to the local community.