UK contractors could soon be lining up to form consortiums with foreign nuclear specialists to bid for a new generation of nuclear power stations.

According to Bill Bryce, chair of the new build working party at the Nuclear Industry Association, UK firms with a speciality in nuclear would be likely to hook up with the five nuclear reactor designers - Westinghouse, Mitsubishi, General Electric, AECL and Arriva/Framatom.

Bryce said: "At the moment everyone is lining up, and eyeing each for potential partners. There's a lot of courting going on."

The news comes as the NIA, the UK nuclear trade body, published a report saying that even though Britain lacked expertise in nuclear reactor design, more than 70% of a nuclear power station could be designed without them.

Bryce said: "The greater part of a nuclear power station is like any other power station and could be provided by UK companies. The things they couldn't do are the reactor pressure vessels and the turbines."

It is thought UK firms Amec and Mitsui Babcock could form consortiums to bid for work.

Bryce said he would present the NIA findings soon to the DTI, and they would then be fed into energy minister Malcolm Wicks' review of Britain's energy needs.

The report came as the government looked set to announce the sale of British Nuclear Group, part of BNFL, which operates Sellafield. Amec and Atkins are likely to be interested in the sale.