France and England signed a new nuclear-energy pact on Friday that will lead to the construction of more nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom, with more than 500 million pounds sterling ($791 million) of private-sector investment.
As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety, and create jobs at home,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement. “The deals signed today will create more than 1,500 jobs in the UK.
Part of the deal includes a 400 million pound ($630 million) contract between the French Areva and the British Rolls-Royce for the manufacturing of a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, England.
While many European nations, such as Italy and Germany, decided to tone down their nuclear energy programs after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last March, France has remained committed to -- and actually chose to expand -- its nuclear power initiative.
The country currently gets 78.8 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the most of any country in the world. France has more than 20 operating nuclear plants with a combined 58 reactors,
There is no alternative to nuclear energy today, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in June, after committing 1 billion more euros (about $1.36 billion) to the nuclear-energy sector.
Cameron, too, is unafraid of nuclear energy, and as part of the pact, France and England will work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to establish an emergency action plan and best-practice measures.
This joint declaration will signal our shared commitment to the future of civil nuclear power, setting out a shared long-term vision of safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy, that supports growth and helps to deliver our emission reductions targets, the English government said in a statement.
Nuclear power accounts for about 16 percent of the electricity production in the UK, and there are currently 10 plants with 19 operating reactors. Eight of the plants are operated by EDF, a London-based subsidiary of Electricite de France.
Also on the docket at the Elysee Palace on Friday were a number of military topics, including the situation in Syria. France and England cooperated during the Libyan uprising, which was aided by NATO bombers, and while the two nations are not currently talking military intervention, they are hoping to again cooperate to end the crisis.
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, Cameron said
“We are looking at ways to help, but the revolution can’t be done without the Syrian people,” Sarkozy added. “Our message to the Syrian opposition is join together and tell us how we can help.”
Sarkozy and Cameron also reached a deal to test new unmanned drones.
“It remains to be seen whether sufficient political will can be maintained over the decade of design and testing required, said Edward Hunt, a Senior Consultant at Aerospace defense company IHS Jane's.
Challenges aside, this would offer a significant capability both for European use and export in an area where the U.S. and Israel have been more dominant.”