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Last Updated: Friday, 1 September 2006, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
First contracts for nuclear plant
The superphenix reactor at Creys Malville
EdF is recruiting allies for an ambitious new nuclear power project
French power utility Electricite de France has begun awarding contracts for a 3.3bn euro (2.2bn) nuclear plant.

Engineering company Alstom will build a steam turbine, the largest it has ever constructed, for the Flamanville plant in Northern France.

Alstom's slice of the project is worth 350m euros, while the 300m contract to build the plant has gone to Bouygues.

The winners of the other 150-odd contracts for the project have yet to be announced.

Challenging summer

Work on the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), driven by so-called "third generation" nuclear technology, is expected to start next year.

Current plans call for the plant to start generating electricity in 2012.

Earlier this year, EdF faced problems in meeting domestic power needs.

Extreme temperatures in July triggered excess electricity demand through increased air conditioning usage, prompting EdF to buy surplus capacity from other European nations.

Low water levels had affected power output at its hydro-electric stations and hampered the cooling process at some EdF nuclear facilities.

EdF's chairman Pierre Gadonneix warned then that the company needed to invest in order to ensure France's energy security.

EdF relies on 19 nuclear sites to generate 88% of its electricity output.

France embraced nuclear power on a massive scale in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, amid fears of over-reliance on Middle East oil sources and a desire for autonomy in energy.

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