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France

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.

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Wednesday
Nov182009

Areva's uranium mining grab in Namibia could devastate the Kalahari

The hidden cost of Britain's new generation of nuclear power could be the destruction of the Kalahari desert in Namibia and millions of tonnes of extra greenhouse gas emissions a year, The Observer reports. French nuclear giant, Areva, and Rio Tinto are leading the charge to ravage the precious desert ecosystem with new uranium mines in Namibia. The Observer quoted Bertchen Kors, director of the Namibian environment group, Earthlife, who said of the proposed mines: "Large areas of the desert will be inevitably devastated. They will do immense damage. We fear that there will be major contamination of the ground water supplies." A similar situation already exists in Niger, north west Africa, where Areva has mined uranium for 40 years, leaving a legacy of radioactive contamination, water depletion and disease. Areva also won the contract to open Africa's biggest uranium mine - at Imouraren in Niger.

Thursday
Nov122009

Jeremy Leggett reveals the fallacies behind the UK plan for new French reactors

Responding to the U.K. government's announcement that it will press ahead with potentially 15 new nuclear reactors at 10 sites - many if not all of which would be the French EPR - , Jeremy Leggett lists 12 compelling reasons why this is a  rash and reckless plan. (Social entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett is founder and Chairman of Solarcentury, the UK's largest solar solutions company, and SolarAid, a charity set up with Solarcentury profits. He is author of The Carbon War and Half Gone.)

Wednesday
Oct142009

Cadarache at 50 represents potential for nuclear catastrophe

The nuclear center at Cadarache – which houses close to 50 nuclear installations as well as an enormous inventory of radioactive waste, turns 50 years old on October 14, 2009. The facility is built on a fault line that is the most seismically active in France and close to another that registered the highest level of seismic activity the country ever recorded (in 1909).  In the case of an earthquake or serious accident, the release of plutonium and other radionuclides into the surrounding environment could transform Provence into a sacrifice zone devoid of inhabitants for thousands of years.  On a daily basis, Cadarache has leaked radioactivity into the nearby Durance river and into the environment. Cadarache is also the chosen location for the international fusion boondoggle know as ITER, a project that will likely never see fruition. It is time to end this unacceptable risk, says the Cadarache watchdog group, Mediane pour sortir du nucléaire, a position supported by the national network, Sortir du Nucléaire, of which Beyond Nuclear is a member.

Wednesday
Oct142009

Nuclear reactors are "the easiest path to the bomb" says physicist

"Nuclear energy is the easy way to get bombs. It is an alibi for nuclear weapons." This was the clear conclusion drawn by French physicist and peace advocate, Dominique Lalanne, during a conference in Colmar, France in early October. In making the inextricable link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, Lalanne pointed out that since the state - i.e. president Nicolas Sarkozy - controls the atomic energy agency (CEA), Areva and the military, France's marketing of nuclear power inevitably provides the buying countries with an easy path to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. He also pointed out that the ability to market nuclear technology maintained the desired effect of certain countries exerting power over others. And, finally, he observed that, given the consequences of a reactor accident, a nuclear state had also to be a police state. This last comment had particular resonance with an audience who, the day before, had participated in an anti-nuclear rally in Colmar, a city that had been shut down and put under virtual siege by the local authorities in an effort to diminish the impact of the protest.

Thursday
Oct082009

France demonstrates that nuclear and democracy are incompatible

As authorities effectively locked down the French city of Colmar, near the German border, thousands of protesters - from France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and elsewhere - gathered on a bright and sunny October 3rd to demand the closure of the nearby Fessenheim reactor and an end to the nuclear age. (Fessenheim is the country’s oldest operation commercial reactor.) Dressed in “solar yellow,” activists had to cross police barricades to enter the city, part of which was completely cordoned off, turning Colmar into a ghost town. German demonstrators were stopped at the border while others were sent on long detours to reach the rallying site.

Just days before the rally, Colmar authorities withdrew permission to hold the demonstration in the larger and more centrally-located Place Rapp and move it to the smaller and more peripheral Place de la Gare. For more pictures of these events, see the Home Page of our Web site. Also, view this collection of news clips about the event. Beyond Nuclear's Linda Gunter was present and spoke at a press conference and at the rally, and attended a two-day conference in Colmar on the many problems surrounding French nuclear power.

The enormous presence of police and gendarmes was an absurd over-reaction on the part of the authorities; an effort to represent anti-nuclear protesters as a threat to public safety; and an attempt to minimize the turnout. As activists pointed out, the police-imposed state of siege in Colmar demonstrated once again that “a nuclear state means a police state.” The state-owned nuclear power and nuclear weapons industries fall under the sole auspices of French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is eagerly marketing nuclear energy globally. Consequently, all signs of nuclear opposition in France must be obscured or eliminated.