Summit for a Franco-British nuclear industry

17 February 2012

Britain and France have again reaffirmed their enthusiasm for nuclear power, declaring their desire to see a joint nuclear industry emerge. The European neighbours also plan to cooperate in response to nuclear emergencies and assist other countries to follow their lead.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK prime minister David Cameron declared a "shared determination to harness and manage nuclear energy in the safest and most effective and secure manner, covering the entire industrial system."

Sarkozy and Cameron in Paris, February 2012 460x120
President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes prime minister David Cameron to the Élysée Palace

The joint declaration on energy made at a Paris summit today contained a range of goals, the greatest of them being to encourage "the emergence of a Franco-British industry that is highly competitive across the whole supply chain at the international level." Most prominent in this will be the work of France's majority state-owned firms EDF and Areva and their cooperation with privately held UK firms for the construction of new reactors in Britain.

A range of commercial contracts towards UK nuclear build were signed at the summit today involving Areva, Amec, Assystem Atkins, EDF, Rolls-Royce and a joint venture between Kier and BAM: Commercial deals accompany French-UK accord

The declaration stated, "Our partnership aims to cover the widest range of industrial activities," and Cameron added: "Today's summit shows the strength and depth of Britain's ties with France. At our last summit, we signed a historic partnership on defence. Today, we are matching that ambition on nuclear energy. As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve safety and create jobs at home."

Language used in today's statements placed huge priority on nuclear energy as a leading source of reliable low-carbon power. The section on renewables begins: "France and the UK will continue to develop renewable energy. This energy complements nuclear energy and helps to achieve the goals defined at European level and ultimately enable the economy to be decarbonised." More grid connections between the countries were called for, "to improve the security of our energy supplies and facilitate the integration of intermittent energy sources."

Nuclear future

Besides the headline development of commercial nuclear energy, France and the UK also plan to "respond more effectively" to demand for a qualified nuclear workforce. In the UK, EDF Energy will partner with Bridgwater College to launch their "World Class Training Centre Intitiative". Meanwhile there will also be cooperation between France's Institut International de l’Energie Nucléaire and the UK National Skills Academy for Nuclear.

In the related fields of research and development Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA) and the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) will "develop joint position statements and prepare common research programmes." The CEA is to work with Rolls-Royce on the development of the Astrid Generation-IV design, (Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration) a fast neturon unit with potential to burn actinides that currently complicate waste radioactive waste disposal.

Emergency response cooperation

France and Britain share a belief that "one of the main lessons of the Fukushima accident is the need to prepare for emergencies at nuclear power plants, whatever the cause, including by having off-site emergency units." They added that, "One operator's resources must, as far as possible, be capable of supporting another operator in the event of a serious incident" and that they wanted a "genuine sharing of intervention capabilities at operator level" as part of strengthened bilateral coordination on nuclear emergency response.

In that spirit the nations have decided to create a "joint nuclear emergency response framework" and pass on learning from that effort to the international community. They will work with the IAEA to determine how best to strengthen the international capability to respond to nuclear emergencies. To support better links between all nuclear countries, France and Britain will develop "shared frames of reference for training, joint training networks and enhanced expert echange programs between states."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News