UK and France 'plan nuclear deal'

Monday, March 24, 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, as well as committing themselves to using nuclear power to combat climate change, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mr Sarkozy would unveil a new Anglo-French drive against illegal immigration.

According to the paper, 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, which are blamed for global warming.

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% of France's electricity, against around 20% 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.

A Downing Street spokesman refused to discuss what would be on the agenda at the Anglo-French summit being held at Arsenal football club's Emirates Stadium in north London on Thursday. "We are having discussions, but anything that happens at the summit will have to wait until the summit," he said.

Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner Neil Crumpton said: "The idea of selling nuclear power around the world as a solution to climate change is just nonsense.

"Nuclear power is limited, dangerous and requires a lot of hi-tech skills to deal with the waste. By far the better technology is renewables, particularly solar power in the deserts and wind power in more northerly climates. It is these safe, simple, easily constructed technologies that the UK and all other countries should be promoting."

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