Russia’s state atomic energy corporation Rosatom has teamed up with Finnish utility Fortum and Rolls-Royce to explore opportunities for the construction and operation of VVER nuclear power plants in the UK.

The companies will work together on preparation for the VVER reactor generic design assessment and assessing the opportunities for licensing of a nuclear power plant construction site, Rosatom said. The UK Government and Rosatom have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate this commercial work.

Under the collaboration agreement, signed 5 September, Rolls-Royce will undertake engineering and safety assessment work for Rosatom ahead of potential licensing of VVER reactor technology in the UK.

Fortum, which operates two VVER reactors at Loviisa in Finland, will "support the work by bringing on board nuclear competence in various areas such as safety and waste management on commercial terms," according to Matti Ruotsala, executive vice president of Fortum Corporation.

Jukka Laaksonen, a former Finnish regulator and now vice president in Rosatom’s export branch, has previously indicated that Rosatom would be unlikely to apply for a reactor licence before 2015, a process expected to take about four years.

The three parties to the agreement described the UK energy market as an "attractive opportunity." Fortum said however, that it has not made any investment decisions related to new nuclear in the UK.

UK Business and Energy Minister, Michael Fallon welcomed the agreement. "Inward investment into our energy sector will depend upon all reactor technologies meeting the stringent and independent regulatory standards required in the UK and EU," he said.

The UK currently has 16 reactors in operation, generating around 18% of the country’s electricity, however all but one of them (Sizewell B) will retire by 2023. The UK government has announced plans aiming at having 16 GWe of new nuclear capacity online by 2030.