The United Kingdom might collaborate in a third-generation synchrotron to be sited in France, alongside the French participating in the British-based Diamond project.
French research minister Roger-Gerard Schwarzenberg and British science minister Lord Sainsbury met in Paris last Friday and confirmed that the two countries should work together on the British project to be built at the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory near Oxford.
They also had "fruitful discussions" about the possibility that the UK might contribute with other partners to another synchrotron in France.
Mr Schwarzenberg had indicated earlier that he was studying the case for reprieving Soleil, the proposed synchrotron that former minister Claude Allegre abandoned last year in favour of cooperation with Britain.
He said he would make a firm decision on Soleil "before the summer", giving the impression that he was in favour of its resurrection. He said it was necessary to consider "the risk that the capacity of the Franco-British project would not be sufficient to meet all the needs of French researchers", and whether "it would therefore be necessary to have a third-generation synchrotron in France".
Meanwhile, unions at the Warrington-based Daresbury Laboratory, which lost in its bid to secure the Pounds 500 million Diamond project, poured scorn on Lord Sainsbury's moves to keep the French, who have increasingly looked like pulling out, on board the UK project.
The unions pointed to "cast-iron guarantees" from prime minister Tony Blair and trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers that if the French did pull out, the decision to locate the project at RAL would be reviewed.