Nuclear forum go-ahead after Blair-Chirac talks


A joint Franco-British nuclear energy forum is to be created, following the annual summit between UK prime minister, Tony Blair, and French president, Jacques Chirac, in Paris.

The joint forum is designed to provide an open discussion between the two countries with regards to nuclear power, allowing expertise and knowledge to be shared as well as creating links between government ministers and nuclear experts.

In what will possibly be their last joint summit, the two leaders, who have frequently clashed in the past, ignored potentially fractious issues such as the war in Iraq and the EU constitution and instead focused on nuclear power and dwindling energy supplies.

With the prime minister awaiting the publication of the UK's energy review, which is widely predicted to propose the construction of a raft of new nuclear power stations, nuclear energy is high up on Mr Blair's agenda.

France is by far the largest consumer of nuclear energy in Europe, generating up to three-quarters of its energy from nuclear power stations.

A joint statement issued by Mr Blair and Mr Chirac said: "We have agreed to explore in the short term and further develop the opportunities of working together in the civil nuclear field.

"To that end we have agreed to establish a regular Franco-British Nuclear Forum, involving representatives from government, industry and technical experts.

"The forum will provide a vehicle to discuss Franco-British nuclear co-operation, including research, skills, decommissioning and waste management."

Today's summit also addressed issues relating to next week's European Council meeting in Brussels, the future enlargement of the EU and Iran's continued enrichment of uranium.

But the meeting could be the last official one between the prime minister and president, with presidential elections scheduled in France for next April.

When Mr Blair and Mr Chirac met in Paris last June for the annual summit, relations between the two leaders broke down spectacularly over the Iraqi war, with the UK prime minister forced to conduct the following press conference by himself.

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