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French bid for Brit nuclear sector back on

Pension funds' gripes sweetened

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The UK nuclear industry is back on track for a future hand in hand with that of France, according to reports. British institutional investors, which had previously blocked French nuke giant EDF's bid for Blighty's nuclear plants, are now thought to be on side with the acquisition.

The Financial Times this morning says that "people with knowledge of the deal" believe that EDF has now sweetened its bid for British Energy - the mostly private-sector owner of the UK's viable nuclear power sites - to the point where Invesco Perpetual will cease to oppose the buy. Invesco holds 15 per cent of British Energy, and its desire for better terms has previously stymied EDF's takeover.

The rosier prospects for the buy will be warmly welcomed by the British government, boxed in by its pledges to cut UK carbon emissions and yet keep the lights on. The best hope for new nuclear build is seen as EDF's money and solid expertise (most French electricity is nuclear) allied to British Energy's sites, already cleared for nuclear use. Only one British nuke station, at Sizewell, is at all modern and the UK's expertise in the area has lagged correspondingly.

EDF believes it can make a lot of money in Britain, especially with the prospect of fossil generators being compelled to pay for their carbon emissions or capture and sequester them - leaving nuclear as the cheapest kind of electricity, even without further rises in the price of gas. Nuclear juice, meanwhile, should stay stable in price even if uranium costs soar - fuel is only a small proportion of what the consumer pays, with most of the money going on building, running and decommissioning.

The FT indicates that there had been rumours of EDF moving instead into the American market, but it seems now that the British deal will move ahead. ®

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