British and French firms set to advance nuclear build in UK

Companies from Britain and France today signed agreements likely to advance the next generation of nuclear plants in the UK.

Prime minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy witnessed the signing of a deal worth £400m on nuclear reactors between Rolls-Royce and AREVA, which includes the first EPR reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. This will underpin a new Rolls-Royce factory in Rotherham and support 1,200 new jobs across the nuclear supply chain in Britain.

Lawrie Haynes, president of nuclear at Rolls-Royce, said: ‘Rolls-Royce has broad nuclear experience, a strong track record and an extensive nuclear-certified supply chain. Together with AREVA, we will work to successfully deliver new civil nuclear projects in the UK and around the world.’

In addition, an engineering contract was signed between EDF and Kier/BAM for a proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, which could be worth £100m for companies operating in the south west, creating a further 350 jobs.

Finally, a £15m investment was made towards a new world-class training campus in Bridgwater, Somerset, for EDF employees, new starters and the local community.

Welcoming the strength of the Anglo-French energy relationship and their joint commitment to the transition to a low-carbon economy, the two governments agreed:

  • A call for further studies into electricity interconnection between the UK and France;
  • A deal to extend co-operation on civil nuclear security and to share best practices on security at nuclear sites;
  • An agreement to co-operate closely on research and development in the nuclear industry; and
  • A commitment to work closely to ensure that both countries’ nuclear industries have the necessary skills in place.

Cameron said: ‘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.’

The nuclear project will see industry collaborating with academic institutions in order to achieve its goal.

Prof Andrew Sherry, director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute at Manchester University, said: ‘As part of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre alongside Sheffield University, Manchester is working closely with AREVA and Rolls-Royce to drive forward manufacturing innovation for new nuclear build.’

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said he believes that this is not necessarily the best deal for securing UK jobs and skills as the vast majority of the construction and manufacturing jobs needed to build the nuclear reactors will go to France.