Japan and France agree on climate change-nuclear energy pact


Japan and France agreed on Friday to cooperate on climate change and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.


“We agreed to work closely on global issues such as climate change and African development,” Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said after talks with visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.


“Japan will strengthen cooperation on nuclear power with France,” he said during a joint news conference.


The two leaders “share the view that nuclear energy will play a significant role for the prosperity and sustainable development in the 21st century,” said a joint declaration on the peaceful use of nuclear energy announced on Friday.


While acknowledging the importance of nuclear nonproliferation, safety and security, the leaders said in the declaration that nuclear energy is becoming increasingly important for strengthening global energy security and tackling global warming.


Fillon’s visit marks the 150th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries and comes ahead of this year’s summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Japan, where leaders are expected to focus on global warming.


“The summit will be a chance for the developed countries to present a model on how to cut back on carbon dioxide while maintaining development to the developing nations,” Fillon said.


Traveling with Fillon to Japan was Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of France’s state-run nuclear giant Areva, who signed a memorandum on Friday with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Chairman Kazuo Tsukuda to expand the two companies’ cooperation in the nuclear reactor fuel business in Japan.


The two companies will look into establishing a joint venture to supply fuel to pressurised water nuclear reactors and gas reactors, among others, Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy said in a joint statement. They will also discuss Mitsubishi’s possible investment in Areva’s US nuclear fuel production facility.


Mitsubishi Heavy President Hideaki Omiya said the companies hope the joint effort can “contribute to make the nuclear renaissance sustainable.”


The firms also will work together in Areva’s bid for two new generation EPR reactors in South Africa.


The French prime minister is also scheduled to make a day trip to a nuclear power plant in the northern village of Rokkasho, about 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Tokyo.


The Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which uses technology from Areva, began test operations in March 2006 and will eventually produce MOX fuel, a uranium-plutonium mixture.


Recycling is a central element of Tokyo’s plans to reduce its dependence on energy imports by building fast-breeder reactors, which produce plutonium that can then be reused as fuel.


Resource-poor Japan, which now relies on nuclear plants for a third of its energy needs, aims to raise that to nearly 40 per cent by 2010.


France gets more than 70 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power and has actively sought to export its nuclear technology, stepping up efforts in recent years amid rising concerns about global warming. (AP)