IDAHO FALLS — Officials for the French nuclear power company Areva are now looking to 2013 to begin construction on a $3 billion uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls.

Areva had hoped to begin construction on the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility this year, but backed off that timeline after executives last year announced the company instead needed to focus on returning to profitability after a dismal 2011.

Bob Poyser, vice president for Areva's Idaho Falls operation, insists the company is committed and actively seeking investment partners.

"The project is definitely still alive and moving forward," Poyser told The Post-Register in a story published this week.

Last fall, federal regulators awarded Areva a license to build and operate the facility. The company has also received a $2 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Areva already owns the land for the plant west of Idaho Falls and invested resources in planning and development. At one time, the company had hoped to begin construction this year to meet an opening date of 2014. The project, expected to create several thousand construction jobs and 700 permanent positions once operational, was viewed as a future driver of the eastern Idaho economy and a key component in Areva's plans to expand production of nuclear fuel for commercial power production in the United States.

But in December, Areva announced plans to scale back its operations, payroll and investments globally as it sought to recover from a challenging 2011.

Poyser said a lack of cash and the need for new investment partners remain the key hurdles to moving forward. The company could also move forward on its own if it fails to secure investment partners in the next year.

"If we can't find a partner, the earliest start would be sometime in 2014 probably," Poyser said.