EDF is to expand its role in the UK nuclear industry with three initiatives announced today.

The initiatives were unveiled following French President Francois Hollande visit to Britain today – his first since taking office in 2012.

In speeches to the media, Hollande and Prime Minister David Cameron said that nuclear power was crucial to both France and the UK.

Following the talks between the two governments, EDF – which is to build Britain’s first new nuclear reactor in a generation at Hinkley Point (pictured in an artist’s impression) in Somerset – announced three initiatives.Hinkley Point

It will sponsor a new Franco-British partnership between the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association SME Partnership and the French Partenariat France Monde Électricité to bring new small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to the new nuclear supply chain.

EDF will also expand its partnership with Imperial College London and its collaboration with the National Nuclear Laboratory to include research, education and training for nuclear energy and in particular the new build programme.

And the French company will also support the development of a South West Nuclear Research Hub in partnership with The University of Bristol.

EDF Energy’s chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “France and Britain have much to gain by sharing their strength and experience to boost the capability of their nuclear industries at home and around the world. That will be underpinned by their in-depth and growing expertise in nuclear research and development.

“Experience in France also shows that small and medium enterprises can win global nuclear business by working together. EDF is confident that British businesses can be just as successful, forging new alliances with their French counterparts and increasing the opportunities for all through this partnership.”

Lord Hutton, Chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The UK nuclear new build programme, potentially worth up to £60 billion, represents a major opportunity for British industry. Like EDF Energy we are keen to see SMEs play the fullest possible role in this, and have set up a special working group to maximise their opportunities.”

He said the agreement with PFME “will bring UK SMEs together with their opposite numbers in the French nuclear supply chain… and enable our companies to learn from French nuclear experience”.

“It will also, in the longer term, lead to mutually beneficial partnerships that will help both parties to make the most of their skills in the UK market and, subsequently, overseas.” 

Coincidentally, the European Commission today published the full letter it sent to the UK announcing its intention to carry out a state aid probe of the Hinkley deal. To read the letter in full click here.

Meanwhile, Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in the UK was partly closed this morning due to “elevated levels of radioactivity”.

Only “essential” staff are being asked to come to work at the site in West Cumbria, England.

Sellafield is keen to stress that it believes there is no risk to the workforce or the public.

In a statement it said the site was operating at “reduced manning levels… following the detection of elevated levels of radioactivity at one of the on-site radiation monitors”.

It added that these levels are “above naturally occurring radiation but well below that which would call for any actions to be taken by the workforce on or off the site”.

It said the site was at “normal status” and continuing to operate “as investigations continue”.

Feature: The nuclear renaissance starts here