With almost a dozen companies seeking permits to built two and half dozen nuclear power plants in the United States, Franceâ''s Areva has formed a joint venture with Northrop Grumman to produce major plant elements such as reactor pressure vessels and steam generating systems. The subsidiary, Areva Newport News LLC, will be based at the Virginia shipping center, in a new 300,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that Areva will build with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, whose business has been in decline.
On the face of it, the decision by Areva and Grumman reflects confidence that reactor construction will soon revive in the United States, after a three-decade-long hiatus. The U.S. Energy Act of 2005 provides $18.5 billion in loan guarantees and electricity production subsidies to the first companies to build new nuclear power plants. Areva reports that its French heavy manufacturing facilities already has a five-year backlog of orders, with nuclear power plants being built or on order in France, Finland, and China.