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UK, France discuss nuclear fusion

world Updated: Jan 11, 2008 13:12 IST

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Top British and French nuclear companies are in "advanced talks" to build a consortium to construct a new generation of reactors in the UK.

The British government has approved a new generation of nuclear power stations in the country. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has endorsed his predecessor Tony Blair's support for kick-starting Britain's nuclear energy programme, against a backdrop of soaring oil prices, which last week hit 100 dollars a barrel.

Though no official announcement has been made on the number of new reactors to be constructed, there is speculation it could be up to 10, replacing many of Britain's existing 10 reactors which are being decommissioned over the next decade.

British Energy and EDF that is 80 per cent-owned by the French state, may be joined by Centrica, which is considering taking an equity stake in the group in what would be a new direction for the owner of British Gas.

There has been concerns that financing costs, a lack of skilled engineers, and planning problems would undermine the British government's wish to have the first new plant in operation by 2017.

Bill Coley, chief executive of British Energy that runs eight UK nuclear stations, was reported as saying by the Daily Mail newspaper that he hoped to unveil his consortium in March. Pierre Gadonneix, EDF's chief executive, disclosed that his company was in "quite advanced talks" with British Energy.

However, Tony Ward, energy expert at management consultants Ernst & Young, said companies may struggle to attract investment in nuclear power plants because other nations have already tapped such funds.

"There is great competition for resources, components and capital - the UK will need to work hard to remain an attractive option," he said. There are 30 reactors under construction around the world, and more than 90 at the planning stage.