” Britain and Japan have signed an agreement that significantly expands cooperation in the nuclear energy sector and paves the way for Japanese companies to construct nuclear plants in the UK.
It also covers cooperation in the areas of decommissioning and decontamination and it is anticipated that the deal will give British companies with advanced technologies greater access to projects at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where three of the six reactors suffered melt-downs after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
The memorandum of understanding was signed in Tokyo on Thursday by Hiroshige Seko, the Japanese trade and industry minister, and Greg Clark, the business and energy secretary.
The agreement is the first of its kind for Japan, while Mr Clark described it as “vital” to the UK’s industrial strategy and the development of clean energy sources.
One of the key components of the agreement is the proposals by Hitachi and Toshiba to build new reactors in Britain.
Horizon Nuclear Power, bought by Hitachi from a German company in 2012, has delivered the outline of a project at Wylfa Newydd in Wales, and has plans to build as many as six reactors in the UK. Toshiba joint venture NuGeneration is planning a nuclear plant in Cumbria and is considering additional projects.
Speaking in Tokyo last week, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, said: “The technology is proven and well-known. Hitachi and Toshiba have the technology. The challenge really is financing, not a technical or commercial challenge.”
The two governments are to review investment and lending for Horizon through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Development Bank of Japan. Financing of the project from the Japanese side is expected to reach Y1 trillion (£7 billion).
Japan is particularly keen for the projects to go ahead after its previous attempt to export nuclear energy technology, to Vietnam, fell through.
Japan and Britain will also collaborate on nuclear research and development, as well as security.
The deal on nuclear energy with Japan has progressed smoothly, in contrast to the problems the £18 billion Hinkley Point C project encountered earlier in the year.
That scheme is a joint venture between EDF, which is 85 per cent owned by the French state, and China General Nuclear Power Corp. It was put on hold in July, over concerns about China’s involvement, before subsequently being given the go-ahead.
by Julian Ryall