France gets nearly 80% of its electricity from its 58 reactors. However, such a heavy reliance on nuclear power brings with it many major, unsolved problems, most especially that of radioactive waste. Despite assertions to the contrary, the French nuclear story is far from a gleaming example of nuclear success. Please visit Beyond Nuclear International for current coverage of nuclear France.



Now you can attend Areva University

Areva and five other nuclear corporations are the founding partners of a new Academy designed to "train young graduates and high potential employees with different backgrounds to become leaders or to prepare them to take broader responsibilities in European nuclear energy corporations and institutions." The European Nuclear Energy Leadership Academy will be based in Germany.


Areva and EDF square off in angry dispute

As we report in this week's Medusa, Areva and Électricté de France – both almost entirely government-owned, are squaring off in a new row that is undermining confidence in both companies worldwide. EDF, the electricity group that runs 58 reactors in France, claims that Areva has ceased transportation of irradiated fuels at EDF reactor sites to the Areva reprocessing plant on the Normandy coast. EDF also claims that Areva has blocked the import of uranium, needed to fuel the country’s nuclear power plants. The two companies are apparently at loggerheads over a new one billion dollar Areva contract with EDF to process irradiated fuel. Areva has denied that it has stopped uranium supplies but admits blocking transportation and treatment of irradiated fuel. According to a report in The Times (UK), “Their squabble has been cited as one of the factors behind France’s failure to secure a $42 billion contract to build reactors in Abu Dhabi, a contract that went to South Korea instead as reported in last week’s Medusa. EDF is a partner with Constellation Energy of the U.S. in a plan to build a third (French) reactor at the Calvert Cliffs, MD nuclear power plant site already home to two reactors.


Another blow to the Areva empire

The French oil company, Total, has opted not to invest in Areva after the French nuclear company lost a bid to build two new reactors in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Total’s director general also questioned whether it was possible to make the EPR – Areva’s flagship new reactor – less expensive without compromising safety. “That’s the real question,” he told Reuters news agency. The UAE deal was considered a crown jewel for the struggling Areva whose EPR has been the subject of postponements and cancelations in major markets like the U.S. and China. South Korea won the UAE deal – said to be worth as much as $40 billion with four new reactors planned. It is believed that the recent joint statement by the Finnish, British and French nuclear safety bodies, asking that the EPR's control and safety systems should be changed to avoid both failing at once, contributed to the French loss of the UAE contract.


Electricite de France has 9 reactors off-line as demand spikes during deep freeze

France must resort to importing electricity during a severe cold snap because 9 of its 58 reactors are shut down for various reasons. This calls into question nuclear power industry claims of being a reliable source of baseload electricity, and further shatters the myth that nuclear power in France operates without a hitch. As the Union of Concerned Scientists reported in its 2006 "Walking a Nuclear Tightrope: Unlearned Lessons of Year-plus Reactor Outages," nuclear power's un-reliability has plagued the U.S. time and time again. In a destabilized climate, such atomic outages will only increase as a safety precaution.


Radiation levels around Areva's Gabon mine unacceptable

A new investigation by CRIIRAD, the independent French radiation laboratory, has found high levels of radioactivity around the now abandoned Areva-owned uranium mine site in Gabon, Africa. According to CRIIRAD, the mine produced 7.5 million metric tonnes of radioactive silt of which two million tonnes was dumped in a river. CRIIRAD conducted an initial study in Gabon but returned in 2009 to find that mine workers' housing was built with radioactive materials. CRIIRAD stated that "local populations have been unwittingly doses of radiation that are totally unjustified."