Britain’s Centrica will boost its nuclear business through the acquisition of a stake in British Energy and the sale of a majority stake in its Belgian utility SPE to France’s EDF.

The British utility will purchase a 20% stake in British Energy and sell a 51% stake in SPE to EDF following clearance from the European Union.

Centrica will also offtake 20% of the British Energy fleet’s uncontracted power.

EDF and Centrica will establish an 80:20 joint venture for the development of four European Pressurised Reactors.

The joint venture will undertake pre-development work for a proposed nuclear new build programme with the intention to develop, run and decommission the four reactors.

“This is a welcome decision and we look forward to completing the British Energy transaction shortly. We believe nuclear energy is an essential component in ensuring clean, secure energy for the UK and we are proud to be part of the nuclear renaissance in the UK, said Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw.

The first reactor is expected to be built by 2017.

EDF will also offer another 18TWh of power to Centrica at market prices for five years starting 2011.