France’s Eiffage, through its subsidiary Eiffage Génie Civil, has signed a €4bn ($4.36bn) contract with EDF to undertake the main civil engineering works for the first two EPR2-type nuclear units at the site of the Penly NPP. The tender for this contract began in 2019. Construction of the two units includes 69 civil structures. Preparatory work is expected to begin in mid-2024 once EDF obtains the necessary permits.

The civil engineering phase will include the construction of turbine hall buildings, the reactor building containment – domes 70 metres in height and 50 metres in diameter – and a six-level operations building with a total floor space of 15,000 square metres. Eiffage says the work will require synergies between several of the Group’s areas of expertise. At its peak, this civil engineering phase will involve almost 4,000 people. In cooperation with the project stakeholders, the Group will also develop training programmes essential to the revival of the French nuclear industry.

EDF in May 2021 had submitted to the government a proposal for the construction of the new EPR2 reactor programme. The aim is to contribute, alongside renewable energies, to achieving France's targets for decarbonisation of the economy and energy security. EDF plans to build three pairs of EPR2 reactors on sites at Penly, Gravelines (Hauts de France) and in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region at Bugey or Tricastin.

The Penly NPP currently houses two 1330 MWe class pressurised water reactors. In February 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was time for a nuclear renaissance in France, adding that operation of all existing reactors should be extended without compromising safety and proposing construction of six new EPR2 reactors, with an option for eight more.

The EPR2 is being developed by EDF and Framatome incorporating design, construction and commissioning experience from the EPR reactor and operating experience from those in service. France’s state audit office has said EDF must ensure the financing and profitability of the EPR2 before starting any construction.

In July, EDF said it had initiated the authorisation procedures required to build the first two EPR2 reactors at Penly, as well as the administrative procedures for its completion and its link-up to the electricity grid. EDF's target is to start preparatory work mid-2024. Also in July, EDF signed a contract with Atos's Eviden business and Schneider Electric to supply control systems for six planned EPR2 NPPs.