Russia’s Rosatom has recruited Rolls-Royce to help get its technology approved by British regulators, increasing the chances that Russian nuclear reactors will be built on British soil.
The British government and Rosatom also signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation in civil nuclear energy.
The agreements reflect the UK government’s desire to attract as many foreign investors as possible into its troubled nuclear programme.
But it could raise concerns with some parts of the British public who still associate Russia’s nuclear industry with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
So far, the only company with firm plans to build reactors in Britain is EDF, the French utility, which is eyeing a plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
But EDF can’t shoulder the costs of Hinkley on its own and is looking to share them with other investors. It has been in talks with China General Nuclear Power group about coming into the project.
However, people familiar with the talks say CGN has made clear it will invest in Hinkley only if it is allowed some operational control of any future nuclear plants the two companies build in the UK – a demand that could raise national security concerns for the government.
Under the agreement signed on Thursday, Rolls-Royce will undertake engineering and safety assessment work for Rosatom and help it get its reactor design approved by UK regulators, under a process called the generic design assessment.
Completing the GDA process is a prerequisite for being able to build reactors in the UK and can take up to four years.