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UK and France team up on nuclear energy

The UK and France are set to work together on building the UK’s next generation of nuclear reactors, as part of an agreement signed on 17 February.

The deal, made by Prime Minister David Cameron and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy at a summit at the Élysée Palace, is intended to boost cooperation in developing civil nuclear energy.

Under the plans, French company Areva will build the UK’s new reactors, to be operated by energy firm EDF. British company Rolls Royce will implement the technology while also manufacturing components.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the commercial deals will be worth more than £500 million, creating more than 1,500 jobs in the UK, as well as a new Rolls Royce factory in Rotherham.

The agreement includes a commitment for the two countries to cooperate closely on nuclear industry research and development, as well as to share best practice.

Maintaining the industry’s necessary skills was another commitment in the agreement. Commenting on the deal, the Royal Society of Chemistry stressed that the UK must invest more in teaching and research to ensure that the skills are in place.

“The UK will have to invest more in the physical sciences to ensure that the country will have sufficient numbers of skilled people to build and maintain the projected eight new nuclear facilities,” said a society statement.

Cameron is leading a group of UK cabinet ministers to France. “As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety and create jobs at home,” he said in a statement.

Energy secretary Edward Davey added that there are plans for nuclear sites in Cumbria, Gloucestershire, North Wales, Somerset and Suffolk.

“Supply chains will spring up too, and extend the reach of economic benefit across the country,” he said in a statement. “This investment could be worth around £60 billion and create up to 30,000 jobs.”

In November 2010 the two countries signed a defence and security deal for collaboration on nuclear weapons testing research through facilities in Aldermaston, west of London, and Valduc in Burgundy.