France spreads offers of nuclear cooperation

12 July 2007

France has offered to cooperate on nuclear energy with gas-rich Algeria, having already said it would cooperate with Georgia. It has also extended a cooperation agreement with Vietnam.

During a tour of north Africa this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy indicated that he is willing to share French expertise in civil nuclear power with Algeria. He met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika while on a visit to Algeria and Tunisia to promote his plan for a 'Mediterranean Union' involving southern European countries and their north African neighbours.

Sarkozy said he would return to Algeria in November when he hoped to announce a wider accord on energy. He said, "We will have the opportunity to make concrete proposals in November," adding that these would cover "the energy of today and the energies of tomorrow, including nuclear." Nuclear cooperation talks are currently focused on the sharing of technology and research. There is also the possibility of training Algerian engineers in France. Talks have not yet extended to exploring commercial projects, such as the construction of a power plant.

Algeria signed a cooperation agreement with the USA on 9 June covering cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the management of radioactive wastes. It also signed a deal with Russia in January 2007 on possible nuclear cooperation. Although the country has no immediate plans for nuclear energy, Algeria's government has said that nuclear could be part of the country's future energy mix. Algeria plans to publish a law on the use of civilian nuclear power soon. Algeria reportedly plans to sign similar cooperation agreements with South Africa and Egypt.

"Algeria has uranium resources and also research facilities," Chakib Khelil, the country's energy minister, recently told the Financial Times. He said, "We are looking for any partners who can help us develop. So we don't exclude nuclear power, it's an option in the long term, so we are working on it." Khelil added that agreements on nuclear power would be characterized not by investment but "more by what the partner will bring in terms of management know-how [and] in terms of markets."

On 13 June, Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, discussed nuclear cooperation with Sarkozy during a visit to Paris. The following day he met with Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva, to discuss the possibility of constructing a civil nuclear reactor in Georgia. Georgia is heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies and there is some discussion about building a nuclear power plant to assist its energy independence.

Meanwhile, France and Vietnam have extended their cooperation agreement on the peaceful application of nuclear technology. The agreement was originally reached between the Vietnam National Atomic Energy Commission (Vinatom) and France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in 1996. Under the agreement, the two countries will cooperate on evaluating nuclear energy application strategies; reactor technology and fuels; managing radioactive waste and nuclear safety; and, conducting research for designing a draft law on atomic energy. In February 2006, the Vietnamese government announced that a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant would be on line by 2020.

Further information

WNA's Cooperation in the Nuclear Power Industry information paper
 Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries information paper
 French Nuclear Power Program information paper

 Algeria-US accord on nuclear cooperation
WNN: Pro-nuclear Sarkozy wins French election