UK and France sign agreements on new nuclear plants

Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy have put recent political spats behind them to announce cooperation on nuclear power.

Areva and Rolls Royce have signed a deal worth £400m which will see a Rotherham factory take centre stage in designing and manufacturing internal components for future UK nuclear plants.

Vinci and Bouygues are already part of joint ventures bidding for the main civils package at Hinkley Point C alongside joint venture partners Balfour Beatty and Laing O’Rourke respectively, while a Costain/Sir Robert McAlpine bid is the third under consideration.

Contractors are currently being appointed to build the manufacturing facilities, with Bam Construct, Miller and Clegg vying for the £35m deal.

EDF Energy has also signed its £100m contract with Kier/Bam for works at Hinkley Point, which is currently at the centre of a protest from anti-nuclear campaigners.

Frost & Sullivan analysts Enguerran Ripert and Neha Vikash said the agreement paves the ways for EDF and other utilities to secure funding, and supply chain agreements for the eight sites across the UK, earmarked for new nuclear capacity.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “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.”

Engineering design and services consultants Assystem and Atkins will also expand their nuclear engineering alliance to support EDF in the deployment of the UK EPR programme.

In a joint statement, the companies said: “The alliance will support EDF in those parts of its programme where it seeks a Franco-British team. This agreement broadens the scope of the partners’ alliance, The Nuclear Atkins Assystem Alliance (n.triple.a) formed in early 2011 to meet the needs of governments and utilities in countries interested in developing nuclear energy.”

Stéphane Aubarbier, n.triple.a president confirmed the move will mean staff from Atkins working in France initially with staff from Assystem working in the UK as the nuclear programme grows.

A £15m investment in a new training campus in Bridgwater, Somerset for EDF employees, new starters and the local community was also confirmed.

The two governments have agreed:  

A call for further studies into electricity interconnection between the UK and France;

A deal to extend cooperation on civil nuclear security and share best practice on security at nuclear sites;

An agreement to cooperate closely on research and development in the nuclear industry; and

A commitment to work closely to ensure that both nations’ nuclear industries have the necessary skills in place.

Energy secretary Edward Davey said: “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 £60billion and create up to 30,000 jobs.”

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