Britain and France confirmed mutual interest in a nuclear power commitment, declaring their desire to see a strategic nuclear industry partnership emerge. The countries also expect to cooperate on educational development and responsible risk management of potential nuclear emergencies.
A series of commercial contracts regarding the construction of nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom were signed at a summit last week. The AREVA Group (EPA:AREVA), AMEC (LSE:AMEC), Assystem (EPA:ASY), Electricité de France SA (EPA:EDF), Rolls-Royce (LSE:RR), and a joint venture between Kier and BAM were involved.
The resignation of Energy Secretary Chris Huhne earlier this month could facilitate new nuclear plant permits in the UK, as the former cabinet minister argued that he was only in favor of new nuclear plants if they were funded by the private sector.
Developing human resources
Aside from the commercial development of nuclear energy, the UK and France plan to cooperate on civil nuclear education and training, responding to a demand for a qualified nuclear workforce. In the UK, EDF Energy will partner with Bridgwater College to create a "World Class Training Centre" initiative. There is also expected to be cooperation between the UK National Skills Academy and France's Institut International de l'Energie Nucléaire.
Addressing emergency response issues
France and Britain share the chief concern of preparing for emergencies at nuclear power plants, and plan to share intervention capabilities at the operator level "as part of strengthened bilateral coordination on nuclear emergency response." The countries have decided to create a "joint nuclear emergency response framework," and will pass on learning from that effort to the international community. Working together with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), they hope to maximize international efforts and capability to respond to nuclear emergencies.
Uranium mining and exploration implications
A continued international sign of confidence in nuclear energy is important for the uranium mining industry as long-term policy commitments result directly in large capital expenditures for utility companies that require sources of uranium fuel for considerable periods of time. Third generation nuclear power plants are considered to be less capital intensive, and to have shorter construction times and fewer cost overruns. Operating costs are easier to quantify for utility companies, and represent the long-term sustainability and growth of uranium demand.
The impact for producers will be greater certainty in forecasting demand and managing operational risk. For junior uranium exploration companies, the assurance of favorable nuclear policies confirms potential for higher values of underlying uranium assets, and greater levels of interest in resource development from the majors.
AREVA has signed a contract with Czech engineering firm TS Plzen for the supply of a new forging press and manipulator for its Le Creusot manufacturing plant. Creusot Forge and Creusot Mécanique operate as specialized divisions of AREVA, supplying large casting and forging components primarily for the nuclear market. Creusot Forge is one of a select number of facilities that can produce the heavy nuclear-grade forgings required for reactor pressure vessels and steam generators. Creusot Mécanique is responsible for precision finish machining on large components.
Junior company news
ESO Uranium Corp. (TSXV:ESO) and Fission Energy Corp. (TSXV:FIS), have announced completion of the staking, recording, and registration of six new claims covering approximately 20,200 acres on a 50 percent joint venture property at Patterson Lake South. This increases the total area to approximately 76,700 acres with 17 claims. Drilling is expected to resume later this month as part of an increased $2.76 million exploration program at the property.
Bayswater Uranium Corp. (TSXV:BYU) announced an additional 70 holes drilled to complete its 350 hole 2011 delineation drilling program at the Reno Creek project located in Campbell County, Wyoming by AUC LLC, its affiliate on the project. Expectations for the year include drilling of up to 550 exploration and delineation holes on various area properties, continuation of permitting activities, preparation of an updated NI 43-101 resource report, and preparation of a NI 43-101 compliant Preliminary Economic Analysis.