Two medium-sized structural steel contractors are creating a joint venture to compete for £250m of work in the nuclear power programme

Bourne Steel and Mabey Bridge, which have a combined turnover of £180m, are finalising plans for a joint venture called BSMB, which may become a separate company.

Alex Smale, UK director of Mabey Bridge, said he wants to compete with bigger firms such as Severfield-Rowen and William Hare for the country’s 10 proposed nuclear power stations. The primary target is Hinkley Point in Somerset, where enabling work is being tendered.

He said: “I’d like to think it will give us greater buying power as steel prices rise sharply, but this is more about pulling together capabilities to provide a better entity to contract with – we’re about heavy plate fabrication and bridging; Bourne is more about construction.”

The two firms have already been in talks with main contractors including Costain, Morgan Sindall, Balfour Beatty and Vinci.

Steve Govier, chief executive of Bourne Steel, said: “The initial response from clients to the news of BSMB has been very encouraging. It’s clear the nuclear sector will provide a significant proportion of the demand for fabricated steel.”

BSMB is now getting its nuclear competence certification from Horizon and EDF.

The venture comes against a backdrop of financial pressure on steel firms. April saw the demise of the £28m-turnover Bone Steel, and the British Constructional Steelwork Association has warned that steel prices will increase by £190 a tonne in the first half of 2010, driven by the rising costs of raw materials such as iron ore, owing to stronger demand for steel in India and China.