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Britain and France to sign nuclear power deal at summit
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Feb 17, 2012

French President Nicolas Sarkozy held talks with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday at a summit in Paris where they were expected to sign a nuclear pact and reinforce defence ties.

The diplomatic stand-offs with Syria and Iran, in which London and Paris are working together on the UN Security Council, were also on the agenda at the Elysee, where Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg arrived just before lunch

France and Britain have clashed in recent months over economic policy in the eurozone, an area in which Paris is much closer to Berlin, but they are close partners in defence and now plan to share nuclear expertise.

Germany has decided to phase out nuclear power, but France still uses it to generate around three-quarters of its power and is keen to seize the market for the world's next generation of more powerful reactor technology.

"At our last summit, we signed a historic partnership on defence. Today, we will match that ambition on nuclear energy," Cameron said, in remarks released by Downing Street before he left London for Friday's talks in Paris.

"As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety and create jobs at home. The deals signed today will create more than 1,500 jobs in the UK."

French nuclear giant Areva is pioneering development of the modern EPR reactor, but Cameron said that thanks to the agreement, British firms would make "the vast majority of the content of our new nuclear plants".

Downing Street said the British engineering firm Rolls-Royce will secure a 400 million pounds (481 million euro, $632 million) share in the work to build Britain's first EPR at Hinkley Point in southern England.

Other British firms will sign deals worth a total of 115 million pounds with France's state-owned energy giant EDF as part of the Hinkley project.

Renewed safety fears in the wake of last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan contributed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision that the EU's biggest economy would begin to phase out nuclear power by 2022.

But France remains committed to the technology, and Sarkozy has attacked an opposition plan to gradually reduce the role of nuclear power.

Both Downing Street and the Elysee Palace said Friday's summit would also tackle the crisis in Syria and the broader question of Franco-British defence cooperation following their close collaboration in the Libyan campaign.

"One year on from the Libya uprising, we are working together to stand up to the murderous Syrian regime and to stop a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran," Cameron said, in the same pre-summit statement.

On the diplomatic front, France and Britain will press for a stronger UN Security Council position on Bashar al-Assad's vicious crackdown on a popular revolt, despite Russian and Chinese opposition to outside intervention.

The UN General Assembly demanded in a resolution Thursday that Syria halt its crackdown, which human rights groups say has claimed more than 6,000 lives over the past 11 months.

But the largely symbolic text, put forward by Arab states with Western support, was opposed by Russia and China, which just days earlier had vetoed what would have been a tougher resolution by the Security Council.

On the question of practical military cooperation, NATO partners France and Britain plan to review progress on a year-old defence agreement that will see them pooling more resources and technology, especially in naval forces.

According to reports in France, the partners are due to take another step towards building a European armed drone -- an unmanned bomber and spy plane that would be a joint project between France's Dassault and Britain's BAE.

The two leaders were to hold talks and a joint news conference at the Elysee, followed by a working lunch. French and British ministers were to hold parallel bilateral talks on defence, foreign affairs and industry.

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Australia's most populated state lifts uranium ban
Sydney (AFP) Feb 15, 2012 - Australia's most populous state will reverse a decades-long ban on uranium exploration, with the regional government saying Wednesday it would be foolish not to tap into the lucrative sector.

Barry O'Farrell, premier of New South Wales, said the quarter-century ban would end so officials can "get the facts" about the extent of any uranium reserves in the state, home to Australia's biggest city Sydney.

Uranium is a key input for nuclear power.

"We'd be mugs (fools) in the current climate, given the revenue being generated in other states, given the jobs being generated in other states, not to do this step, which is to see what uranium resources exist across New South Wales," O'Farrell told reporters.

"Clearly we're a government that needs revenue in order to build the hospitals, the roads, the railways, the other infrastructure New South Wales needs.

"It would be stupid to turn a blind eye to the existence of resources in New South Wales," he added.

There are uranium mines in South Australia state and the Northern Territory but while uranium exploration is allowed in resource-rich Queensland, mining is banned there.

Western Australia, which has massive mineral wealth, currently has no uranium mines but a decision on a new project is expected this year.

Victoria will now be the only Australian state with a total ban on uranium.

O'Farrell's decision, criticised by opposition lawmakers and environmental groups, follows Canberra's lifting in December of a long-standing national ban on exporting uranium to India, opening up a huge new market.

Australia does not use nuclear power but it is the world's third-ranking uranium producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada, exporting 9,600 tonnes of oxide concentrate worth more than Aus$1.1 billion (US$1.2 billion) a year.

It also has the world's largest uranium reserves, holding 23 percent of the global total, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Japan, the United States and European Union account for the majority of Canberra's exports of the nuclear fuel, with smaller shipments to South Korea, China, Canada and Taiwan.

National Resources Minister Martin Ferguson last year described uranium as a "key industry" for Australia, estimating that total output would double within four years and quadruple within two decades.


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