IBM will open in France its first nuclear consultancy center in July, at a time when utilities are looking to build new reactors and stretch the old ones' lifetime, an executive said on Monday.

International Business Machines Corp. is banking on a growth of the nuclear industry as the carbon dioxide-free energy source is touted as a tool to combat global warming and increase power output to meet surging demand.

Guido Bartels, IBM's global energy and utilities industry manager told Reuters that in the 30 countries with nuclear generation there was a need for sophisticated risk modeling and information tools driven by nuclear power plant license extensions and construction of new plants.

But the 25-strong nuclear experts' centre, he added, would be mainly focused on Europe. There is a lot going on here, he said.

The full opening of EU power markets on July 1 to households was an opportunity for increased competition and increased pressure to provide cost-effective and reliable power, he added.

The company did not disclose the investment cost for the centre.

IBM already provides utilities services for improved design, construction, safety and operation of nuclear power plants to utilities such as French power giant EDF, U.S. publicly-owned Tennessee Valley Authority and the utility holding company DTE Energy.

The center, based in southern France, will be near Cadarache, the site of the International Thermonuclear Experimental reactor (ITER) fusion project, and will draw on French expertise.