The New Brunswick government has reopened discussions with French nuclear giant Areva to build a second nuclear reactor in the province.

Energy Minister Jack Keir is in Florida meeting with representatives of Areva.

Keir said in an email that Areva contacted the provincial government before Christmas about discussing possible nuclear opportunities.

"These discussions progressed over the winter," Keir said in the email.

"Once every couple of years Areva have a two-day conference with their customers and supply chain companies to talk about nuclear industry. They invited me to it here in Florida to further our discussions."

Areva's interest in exploring the possibility of constructing a merchant nuclear reactor, which would be constructed and operated by the company and not the provincial government, is a sign that Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s Team Candu New Brunswick project for a second reactor is being put on the backburner.

The momentum toward AECL's proposed second nuclear reactor stalled as the federal nuclear agency's delays at the $1.4-billion Point Lepreau refurbishment project continued.

After speaking with AECL and its partners, Keir said the provincial government and Team Candu have "amicably agreed to cancel the project and discussions."

AECL and a consortium of other companies won out over Areva in July 2007 in a competition to see which company would get the opportunity to build a second reactor in New Brunswick alongside the Point Lepreau nuclear facility.

Areva Canada said at the time that it wanted to expand into the Canadian market and saw New Brunswick as a good opportunity. It had hoped to build one of its light water Generation 3 nuclear units in southern New Brunswick.

Clean energy park

Areva had also committed in 2007 to helping build additional transmission to get the new nuclear power into the northeastern United States.

Keir said the discussions with Areva are now examining a few areas of energy development in New Brunswick.

"They are looking at building clean energy parks that include nuclear but also offshore wind, maybe biomass and solar," Keir said.

"As well they are interested in research and development of nuclear programs at [the University of Moncton]."

Areva was also competing to build two new nuclear reactors in Ontario with AECL and U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co.

The Ontario government halted plans to build those reactors in June 2009 citing escalating costs.