Firms form joint venture in anticipation of decision to build new wave of power stations

Consultants EC Harris and Turner & Townsend are joining forces to work in the nuclear industry, a month before Tony Blair is expected to announce plans for a new generation of power stations.

The two firms are understood to be in the final stages of forming a joint venture to provide project management services in the nuclear sector. The consortium will initially target decommissioning work, but sources close to the deal say it could also be used as a vehicle to pursue new-build contracts if the government does come out in favour of nuclear power in its energy review.

Building understands that the joint venture, which will be owned equally by EC Harris and T&T, is on the verge of securing its first contract, to manage the supply chain involved in the clean-up at the Sellafield plant in Cumbria for British Nuclear Group.

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 from across the engineering and consultancy sectors are considering similar partnerships with UK and foreign firms if the government does take the nuclear option.

A source close to the deal said: "The joint venture is in its early stages at the moment, but both firms are reactive to messages that seem to be coming from the government regarding nuclear power."

Meanwhile, the Health and Safety Executive is understood to have advised the government that the licensing process for nuclear power stations could take much less time than it took to license the building of Sizewell B, Britain's last nuclear power station, in 1995.

The HSE claims that licensing a new series of power stations could take three to four years, compared with the six-and-a-half years it took to approve Sizewell B.

EC Harris and T&T declined to comment.

• EC Harris has been appointed to the Crossrail development team by Cross London Rail Links, it announced this week.