France’s “New” Nukes: Another Industrial and Financial Disaster

The protests against radioactive waste burial at Bure have provided the pretext for state repression. (Photo: Infoletta Hambach/Creative Commons)

Despite the fact that it has proven incapable of properly carrying out the construction of the EPR (European Pressurized) nuclear reactor at the never-ending Flamanville site underway since 2008, EDF (Électricité de France) leadership has nevertheless decided — according to the media outlet, Contexte — to allocate hundreds of millions of Euros to launch a construction program for new reactors, called “EPR2”.

Despite being fiercely pro-nuclear, President Macron has declared on several occasions that the EPR at Flamanville would need to be operational before any decision to build other reactors could be made. However, it’s very likely that Mr. Macron is perfectly well aware of — and complicit in — this decision by EDF management to move forward with a new project.

Just as it has often done in the past, in its contempt for democracy and the interests of the French public, the leadership of EDF intends to use the politics of fait accompli: it proposes to spend hundreds of billions to start one or several “EPR2” reactor construction projects in order to then proclaim that the ship has sailed so the program cannot be stopped…. under threat of wasting hundreds of billions.

But it’s precisely by building nuclear reactors that EDF is already wasting astronomic sums, just as Areva did before that, going bankrupt due to the disastrous EPR construction project in Finland (which began in 2005, was supposed to come on line in 2009….but is still not complete)!

EDF claimed to have EPR construction under control despite Areva’s setbacks in Finland, but the construction at Flamanville is also a total catastrophe. So how can we possibly believe that, miraculously, EDF would be capable of building new EPR reactors, and moreover modified ones (hence the concept “EPR2”)?

For sure, from the anti-nuclear point of view, it is reassuring to be able to count on the incompetence and manifest inability of EDF to build nuclear reactors. But there is no justification for wasting incredible sums of money that are so needed for energy efficiency and renewable energy development.

On the contrary, EDF is guaranteeing failure with these delusional nuclear projects, and, as is the case for Areva (renamed Orano), it is the public who will pay for the steep losses. If this “EPR2” program is not stopped as quickly as possible, it will end in a new industrial and financial disaster.

The least that the President of the Republic can do, assuming that he has a good grasp on democracy, is to prohibit EDF (which is 85% state-owned) from launching this new nuclear program before the startup of the Flamanville EPR.

But obviously the best decision would be to cancel all the new reactor projects and immediately to begin a rapid closure of the 56 reactors that pose a daily threat to the lives of French citizens and a majority of Europeans; reactors that produce radioactive waste for which there is no existing solution and that serve as a pretext for the totalitarian repression of citizens who oppose waste burial at the Cigéo at Bure in the Meuse.

Stéphane Lhomme is a longtime French anti-nuclear campaigner and runs the anti-nuclear network, Nuclear Observatory (Observatoire Du Nucléaire).