GB News: Dan Wootton discusses nuclear energy plan
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French President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to engage in “ambitious cooperation” with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on nuclear energy amid fears that fuel imports from Russia will plummet this winter. In their first meeting since Mr Sunak replaced shortest-ever UK leader Liz Truss, the pair had a discussion on the sidelines at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “They noted opportunities for the UK and France to collaborate further on the transition to clean energy, including on civil nuclear power.
“The Prime Minister and President Macron spoke about the ongoing challenge of illegal migration, stressing the urgency of cracking down on criminal smuggling gangs. They committed to continue working together with partners to address the issues in the Channel.”
France is a nuclear giant, normally generating 70 percent of its electricity via nuclear energy. And while in recent months its nuclear power output has plummeted due to issues with ageing reactors and industry strikes, the nation could still be a useful energy ally for Britain, which is concerned that it may not be able to shore up enough supplies this winter to stave off nationwide blackouts.
This also comes as Britain faces its own nuclear obstacles, with reports this week emerging which claimed the Government is considering scrapping plans for the Sizewell C plant in Suffolk, although Downing Street later denied the BBC’s report.
But Mr Macron may come to the UK’s assistance after reports claimed a new agreement could see France take joint control of the proposed plant.
Back in October, Ms Truss met with Mr Macron during her tenure as Prime Minister, where the 3.2-gigawatt Sizewell C plant, which is expected to produce electricity for around six million British homes, was among the topics discussed.
The Financial Times reported that the UK and France were negotiating to take joint control of the plant, noting that, at the time, a decision was expected to be made within two weeks.
But after Ms Truss resigned following a chaotic few weeks in charge, the talks that were vital to the future of the UK’s electricity supply appeared to get put on ice.
It had been expected that Britain and France’s state-owned EDF would get a 50 percent share in the company developing Sizewell C, which would push Chinese nuclear group CGN out of the deal, according to people briefed on the plan.
But since then, Mr Macron has met with the UK’s new leader and that offer may now be back on the table.
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Sizewell C will be one of the UK’s most important green infrastructure projects ever, and critical to the government’s plan to strengthen energy security, cut gas use and bring down bills, so this joint statement is very welcome.
“The UK needs to urgently get on with building new nuclear capacity alongside renewables, and it’s now important that a Final Investment Decision on Sizewell is reached swiftly so construction can begin.”
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This also comes as the UK scrambles to wean itself off gas as global prices have been sent soaring due to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s supply cuts to Europe. While Britain only got four percent of its gas from Russia last year, it does indirectly import Russian gas from other European countries. Now there are fears that if Russia halts exports, the UK may not be able to shore up enough supplies to get it through the winter.
But under an energy sharing agreement, France may be able to export some of its electricity, produced via nuclear energy, to Britain via interconnectors linking the two nations. France has supplied the UK with cheap power from its nuclear fleet in the past, and enhanced cooperation may further benefit Britain.
Britain’s energy strategy unveiled in April, which detailed a blueprint to both slash dependence on Russia and address the energy crisis, included nuclear as one of its key focal points.
Nuclear is a green energy source in so far as it does not emit greenhouse gases when burned, but there are concerns over the radioactive nuclear waste it leaves behind.
it, therefore, splits opinions but generally is viewed as a clean energy source that, once capacity is ramped up in Britain, will bring a huge boost to the country’s energy security and independence.
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