The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Manchester University will start work this month on a research facility at the Westlakes Science & Technology Park in West Cumbria.
The lead contractor on the job is Morgan Sindall and the project manager is Drivers Jonas Deloitte. The centre was designed by Wilson Mason Architects.
Set for completion in September 2011, the centre will house 45 staff and postgraduate students, and have close links with the existing National Nuclear Laboratory at Sellafield.
Michelle Smith of Drivers Jonas Deloitte said: "The scale of the investment is a major indicator of both parties' desire to establish one of the world's leading research facilities, here in the North West."
Professor Andrew Sherry of the Dalton Nuclear Institute, said "The development will strengthen Manchester's nuclear expertise and put the region at the heart of an important strategic industry. It will provide research and consultancy support to a wide range of stakeholders from both the public and private sector."