MILAN (Reuters) – Newcleo is in talks with large funds as it seeks to raise up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) from new investors, CEO and founder Stefano Buono said, adding France could also take a small stake in the nuclear energy start-up.

The company, which is developing small modular reactors powered by reprocessed nuclear waste, has started the permitting process in France to build a pilot nuclear reactor and a plant to produce nuclear fuel by 2030.
London-based Newcleo, however, will keep a strong presence in Italy where it has its research and development department, and where it also designs and manufactures some of its components, Buono said.

The Italian physicist spoke after daily Corriere della Sera on Wednesday reported the company could relocate its main operations to France.

Newcleo’s project in France last year won a 20 million euro grant from Bpifrance, the country’s public sector investment bank. It can also benefit from tax credit incentives.

“It is possible that BPI decides to also make a small equity investment,” Buono told Reuters in a phone interview, adding no decision had been taken yet.

Currently backed by several Italian entrepreneurs and wealthy families, Newcleo is in talks with funds with a view to raising up to 1 billion euros in capital by the end of this year.

“We want to attract big investment funds … we are in negotiations … talks are going in the right direction,” Bono said, adding the company needs to raise 3 billion euros by the end of the decade to fund its projects.

The French government is interested in Newcleo and is happy to support its project in the country, French sources said, without confirming the possible investment by Bpifrance.

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Editing by Valentina Za)