Top UK politicians build up to new build

14 June 2006

The momentum behind new build in the UK has increased further with the announcement of a Franco-British nuclear agreement and positive comments from Gordon Brown, the man expected to succeed prime minister Tony Blair.

During the annual summit between Tony Blair and French president Jacques Chirac, which focused this year on energy issues, it was announced that a nuclear forum would be created by the two European nations. The forum would allow open discussion of nuclear issues and establish links between ministers on both sides of the Channel.

A joint statement read: “We have agreed to explore in the short term and further develop the opportunity of working together in the civil nuclear field. To that end we have agreed to establish a regular Franco-British nuclear forum, involving representatives from government, industry and technical experts.”

Speaking of the decision to cooperate, Blair said: “One thing is for sure: this policy, for reasons of energy security, is right at the top of the agenda.”

Meanwhile, an article by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, published in The Times on 10 June said that Britain will soon demonstrate its “enhanced flexibility with reforms in planning, skills and labour markets, and in energy policy, including new nuclear.”

Brown has long been seen as Tony Blair’s natural successor as leader of the Labour Party and will almost certainly become prime minister before the next election. He does not usually speak outside his brief and has not spoken positively on nuclear power before.

Britain’s nuclear power units, almost entirely developed under a state programme, are reaching the ends of their operating lives. Their replacement, now under the most deregulated energy market in Europe, is becoming one of Blair’s priorities. His upcoming energy review is expected to ‘facilitate’ new nuclear in the country as a way of avoiding over-reliance on imported gas.

France, by comparison, has been committed to nuclear energy since the 1970s and its largely state-owned generator, Electricité de France, is expected to build several 1600MWe EPRs over the coming decades. Construction of the first, at Flamanville, will commence next year. It is expected that the EPR design and life extension at existing stations will maintain nuclear’s 78% share of generation until Generation IV plants become available in about 2035, and the government supports this strategy.

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Top UK politicians build up to new build

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