26 March 2008 – Anti-nuclear campaigners have reacted with dismay to reports that Britain is on the brink of signing a deal with France to construct a new generation of power plants.
Downing Street declined to comment on claims that the agreement would be sealed during the forthcoming state visit to the UK of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The Guardian reported that Britain aims to draw on French expertise to build new nuclear power stations that will reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
Creating a pool of skilled British nuclear workers would put the UK in a position to join with France in exporting the technology to the rest of the world over the coming decades.
France has long relied heavily on nuclear power for its energy needs, and in 2006 the two premiers’ predecessors Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac created a Franco-British Nuclear Forum to allow the UK to share in technological know-how from the other side of the Channel.
Nuclear power supplies almost 80 per cent of France’s electricity, against around 20 per cent in the UK. The Government wants to replace Britain’s ageing plants, which are due to be decommissioned over the coming decade, and last week began the process of licensing four reactor designs, including one by France’s EDF and Areva.