A LANDMARK agreement on civil nuclear energy between Britain and France will pave the way for the construction of a new generation of power plants in the UK, creating more than 1,500 new jobs.
Deals worth more than £500m between British and French companies will allow work to start on new facilities, including one in Yorkshire.
The plans were agreed at a UK-France summit in Paris yesterday, which saw Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy focus on nuclear energy, defence co-operation and the crisis in Syria.
As part of the deal, Rolls-Royce is to open a factory in Rotherham to produce components for the first new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, in Somerset, as part of a £400m deal with French energy giant Areva, supporting 600 jobs in the company and 600 in its supply chain.
Rotherham MP Denis MacShane said: “I am glad that Britain and France will become European partners to build 21st century nuclear power plants and Rotherham will play an important role.
“Rolls-Royce has already announced significant investment in the Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Rotherham, built on the site of the old Orgreave colliery which was the scene of the famous miners’ dispute in the 1980s.
“The development of the Advanced Manufacturing Centre, which has Boeing and other industrial firms on it, was a brainchild of the era when Tony Blair was Prime Minister and I am pleased the present Government continues to support it.”
Other agreements signed include a £100m-plus contract with Kier/BAM Nuttall for site preparation work to start in the spring at Hinkley Point and a £15m pledge to create a training centre for future nuclear engineers at nearby Bridgwater College.
A memorandum of understanding was signed with French energy giant Areva on the timeframe for completing a contract to deliver the nuclear steam supply system and central instrumentation and control systems for the Hinkley Point C project.
EDF said the agreements signalled further progress towards its plans to build up to four new nuclear plants in the UK with its partner Centrica.
Mr Sarkozy said the deal built on the UK-French treaty signed at Lancaster House in London in 2010, which set out plans for a shared aircraft carrier group, joint expeditionary force and the development of joint nuclear testing facilities.
“France and Britain have opted for a strategic choice, which is nuclear energy,” said the President. “Our co-operation couldn’t be better and we are going to further develop it, both in terms of civil energy and, following in the footsteps of the Lancaster House treaty, military nuclear co-operation.”
The summit came on the first anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising in Libya which eventually led to the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with the help of an international military force in which the UK and France played leading roles.
Mr Cameron paid warm tribute to his host’s role in the effort to defend the Libyan people against the Gaddafi regime, saying he was “absolutely convinced that, were it not for the leadership of Nicolas Sarkozy, we would not have now in Libya people who are free to choose their own future”.
The Prime Minister and Mr Sarkozy said Britain and France would continue to co-operate on the crisis in Syria and offer their support to the Friends of Syria group, which has its first meeting in Tunisia next week.
Mr Cameron also announced that Britain is sending food rations to help 20,000 people in Syria, while Mr Sarkozy denounced President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on protests as “scandalous”.
Mr Sarkozy said the UK and France share “a common determination to ensure that democracies are not strangled by dictatorships” around the world.
Both men acknowledged that they have had differences in recent months over the European Union, notably when Mr Cameron vetoed a new treaty to stabilise the eurozone in December.
But Mr Sarkozy insisted “there are more convergences than divergences”. He said he wanted to ensure euro members take account of the UK’s concerns over the impact of greater financial co-ordination on the EU’s single market, while Britain would show more understanding for the eurozone’s need to act swiftly to resolve its problems.
Mr Cameron said there were “differences” but there had also been “extremely strong” economic co-operation between the two countries, while both the British and French governments were sharing the “most sensitive dossiers” on nuclear defence.
Aid for Syria civilians: Page 13.