A ‘joint declaration’ is about to be signed, which will see France and Britain share their nuclear IP, research and unite our engineering and science bods so that they can work together to develop nuclear energy – the useful, ‘warm your house’ kind, as opposed to the one that goes bang. It’s all part of our ‘shared commitment to the future of civil nuclear power’ – as Downing Street puts it.
Ultimately, France and the UK are the European leaders in civil nuclear power, and both countries are determined to keep that lead. Nuclear energy will also be instrumental in helping Britain to meet its emissions targets. Not to mention the boost that the industry could bring to the UK economy. ‘As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety and create jobs at home,’ enthuses Cameron. Indeed, the Anglo-French agreement will bring in around £500m in commercial deals and create1,500 UK jobs.
Last year, the government confirmed eight sites for potential new nuclear power stations. Good news for Rolls Royce. The manufacturing giant is expected to trouser £400m for its share in building the first of the planned power plants: France’s Areva will supply the reactors – building the bath tubs, as it were - and RR will do the plumbing, or ‘other’ engineering as it’s called in nuclear land.
But there is also a defence element to the deal. Downing Street puts it very delicately indeed: ‘[the alliance will] strengthen international capability to react to nuclear emergencies and establish a joint framework for cooperation and exchanging good practice on civil nuclear security’. In short, we want to beef up our capabilities to deal with potential terrorist threats.
But in order to meet their political agenda, David Cameron and Sarko need get on. Or at least appear to do so. That, in itself, may prove tougher than splitting the atom...