United Kingdom/London: Britain and France were to strike a landmark cooperation deal on civil nuclear energy at a summit between Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday, officials said.
France and Britain have often clashed recently over economic policy in the eurozone, an area in which Paris is much closer to Berlin, but they are still close partners in defence and now plan to share nuclear expertise.
Germany has decided to phase out nuclear power, but France still uses it to generate around three-quarters of its power and is keen to seize the market for the world’s next generation of more powerful reactor technology.
“At our last summit, we signed a historic partnership on defence. Today, we will match that ambition on nuclear energy,” Cameron said, in remarks released by Downing Street before he left London for Friday’s talks in Paris.
“As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety and create jobs at home. The deals signed today will create more than 1,500 jobs in the UK.”
French nuclear giant Areva is pioneering development of the modern EPR reactor, but Cameron said that thanks to the agreement, British firms would make “the vast majority of the content of our new nuclear plants”.
Downing Street said that, under the deal, the British engineering firm Rolls-Royce will secure a £400 million (481 million euro, $632 dollar) share in the work build Britain’s first EPR at Hinkley Point in southern England.
Other British firms will sign deals worth a total of £115 million with France’s state-owned energy giant EDF as part of the Hinkley project.
France and Britain will also work more closely on training and safety technology in order to ensure that the next generation of reactors are safe.
Renewed safety fears in the wake of last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan contributed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision that the EU’s biggest economy would begin to phase out nuclear power by 2022.
But France, which generates 75 percent of its power in reactors remains committed to the technology, and Sarkozy has made bashing an opposition plan to gradually reduce this proportion a key part of his re-election drive.