Sizewell: UK and French leaders to sign deal to co-operate on nuclear energy

BRITAIN and France will today sign a landmark agreement to co-operate on civil nuclear energy, paving the way for the construction of a new generation of power plants in the UK.

Deals worth more than �500 million between British and French companies will allow work to start on new facilities, creating more than 1,500 jobs across the country.

French energy giant EDF has identified Sizewell as a potential site for a new twin-reactor nuclear plant, which is expected to follow a similar development at Hinckley Point in Somerset for which preliminary contracts have already been awarded.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is in Paris for talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy to seal the deal, said today’s agreements were “just the beginning” of investment which the Government believes could be worth �60 billion and create 30,000 jobs.

A joint declaration to be signed by the two leaders at a UK-France summit will signal a shared commitment to civil nuclear power, establishing a framework for co-operation on security, research and development, education and training.

Also high on the agenda will be the unrest in Syria, defence and concerns over Iran’s possible ambitions for nuclear weapons.

Mr Sarkozy announced earlier this week that he will stand for re-election in the presidential elections to be held on April 22 and May 6, with polls suggesting he is trailing Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

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Downing Street said that by joining forces in the nuclear sector, Britain and France can develop a competitive supply chain capable of seizing opportunities around the world.

Rolls-Royce will today sign a �400 million deal with French energy giant Areva to supply services to the first EPR reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, with a commitment for future EPR sites in the UK. Rolls-Royce will build a dedicated factory in Rotherham and the deal will underpin more than 1,200 jobs in the company and its supply chain.

Meanwhile, France’s EDF will conclude a �100 million agreement with Keir/BAM Nuttall for preliminary works at Hinkley Point - the first major construction project to be awarded in the �10 billion project. EDF will invest in a �15 million training campus in nearby Bridgwater.

Speaking ahead of today’s meeting, Mr Cameron said: “At our last summit, we signed a historic partnership on defence. Today, we will match that ambition on nuclear energy.

“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 but they are just the beginning.

“My goal is clear. I want the vast majority of the content of our new nuclear plants to be constructed, manufactured and engineered by British companies. And we will choose the partners and technologies to maximise the economic benefits to the UK.

“Today marks an important first step towards that. A good deal for Britain and a good deal for France.”

Energy Secretary Ed Davey, travelling to Paris with the Prime Minister a fortnight after his promotion to the Cabinet, said: “We need hundreds of billions of pounds of investment in clean energy projects in the UK. This will bring high-skilled job opportunities the length and breadth of the country. Construction workers, engineers, technicians - they will all have a role to play.

“There are plans for new nuclear in Somerset, Suffolk, Cumbria, North Wales and Gloucestershire. Supply chains will spring up too, and extend the reach of economic benefit across the country. This investment could be worth around �60 billion and create up to 30,000 jobs.

“The deals we will see signed today reflect our ongoing desire to work closely together with our French allies and the private sector on nuclear, and across the energy mix.”

Today’s summit comes on the first anniversary of the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, which saw the UK and France work closely together in the UN-backed military operation to protect civilians.

Mr Cameron said: “Today’s summit shows the strength and depth of Britain’s ties with France.

“One year on from the Libya uprising, we are working together to stand up to the murderous Syrian regime and to stop a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran.

“At the United Nations, we co-sponsor more than three quarters of Security Council resolutions. Our commercial relationship is deep and growing, with exports increasing and French investment sustaining almost 10,000 jobs in the UK. Our militaries are working together on cutting-edge military technology.

“This relationship is vital for the national security and the prosperity of both Britain and France.”

Joining Mr Cameron and Mr Davey in Paris are Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who are all expected to speak with their French counterparts.