However, Areva says no commercial agreement has been signed. The company also denies any involvement in the nuclear co-operation deal signed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and French President Sarkozy in Paris, which also covers the supply of one or more nuclear reactors for desalination.

“We do not have any commercial talks on nuclear activity in Libya,” says an Areva spokesman.
“The agreement signed very recently regards co-operation between governments in the development of nuclear energy for peaceful use. It might open the possibility for nuclear co-operation, but we at Areva are definitely not part of this agreement.”

However, industry insiders say the company is the only possible contender for the project. “I do not think Sarkozy would be signing a deal for GE or Westinghouse,” says the industry source. “If it is not Areva, then who else can it be.”

Areva has already signed one agreement in the field of nuclear co-operation with Tripoli. In early 2007, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Libya’s National Bureau for Research & Development.

“We have a previous agreement for the evaluation of Libya’s potential in terms of uranium resources,” says the Areva spokesman. “It is a common study of archives and docu-mentation, not physical or geo-logical exploration. We are carry-ing out map assessment to measure the potential of Libya’s regions.”

The study is ongoing.

In October, Areva signed an agreement with Morocco’s Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), covering the extraction of uranium contained in phosphoric acid produced from Moroccan phosphate ore.

The two companies, which have been involved in scientific co-operation since 2005, are planning a study into the feasibility of an industrial site producing uranium from phosphoric acid.

Securing sources of uranium is crucial to Areva, which is the sole supplier of the fuel to all of France’s nuclear power plants. Electricite de France, for example, is a major client of the company. Areva sources its uranium from Canada, Niger, Kazakhstan and soon the Central African Republic and South Africa. Areva’s spokesman declined to comment on whether it could source uranium from Libya in the future.

Areva is also active in Libya’s power sector and has signed for three major transmission and distribution contracts.

One covers the construction of 10 200kV high-voltage substations in the country, while another includes two 400kV high -voltage substations. Under the third contract, Areva will supply the Libyan network with 69 power transformers.