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U.S. radiation detection and protection group Mirion Technologies and investment funds Apax Partners, 3i and Triton are in the running to bid for Canberra, a unit of French nuclear group Areva (AREVA.PA), a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Thursday.

The source also said French public investment bank Bpifrance might take part in the operation for Areva's nuclear radiation measurement unit Canberra, as it did in the sale of Verallia by Saint-Gobain in October, when Bpifrance took a 10 percent stake alongside the Apollo fund.

A spokesman for Areva said the firm expects bids for Canberra to be made early next year, confirming a report in newsletter L'Agefi, which said bids were expected around mid-February.

The planned sale of Canberra is part of a 400 million euro asset sale plan aimed at restoring Areva's balance sheet.

In June 2013, Areva's attempt to sell Canberra to private equity firm Astorg Partners for an estimated 310-350 million euros fell through.

In 2014, Canberra had turnover of about 180 million euros and employed about 1,000 people worldwide, of which one quarter are in France.

Charterhouse Capital Partners, LLP bought Mirion from American Capital (ACAS.O) in April for $750 million.

(Reporting by Mathiau Protard and Benjamin Mallet; Writing by Geert De Clercq, editing by Jean-Michel Belot and David Evans)

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