Publicatie Laka-bibliotheek:
Nuclear power, the great illusion. Promises, setbacks and threats

AuteurGlobal Change, Y.Marignac
Datumoktober 2008
Classificatie (FRANKRIJK - ALGEMEEN)
Opmerking Online available at

Uit de publicatie:

Nuclear Power: the great illusion

In the context of high oil, gas and coal prices, and of ever deepening and more specific anxieties about
global warming, France seems to have decided to use its EU presidency from July to December 2008
to do everything to persuade its European partners that a massive resurgence in nuclear energy is
absolutely necessary. This will, of course, be to the great benefit of France’s industry. Nicolas Sarkozy
has made it a key point of the ‘energy/climate package’ whose negotiation he hopes to have completed
by the end of his European mandate. He has received significant support from the current President of
the European Commission for this initiative, which has been widely debated across Europe.
More widely, the French President has undertaken nothing short of an international crusade on the
subject, focusing in particular on Mediterranean countries such as Morocco and Algeria, to whom he
has proposed active collaboration with French industry and the French Government, stressing the
advantages of such cooperation in the “war on terror”. In so doing, he is relying on the global
reputation which France and its industry has acquired in this field by tirelessly extolling the virtues of
energy independence and the economic boost that large-scale nuclear electricity production can bring
to a country’s energy system, while being environmentally harmless and perfectly safe, secure and
This line of argument, developed over decades by French governments both right and left, and the
nuclear lobby which is closely linked to them, has managed to take hold in a France weak in
independent expertise. This weakness has been deliberately maintained by the authorities and the
elites, who prefer the comfort of an almost religious consensus to the debate which would inevitably
be triggered by an independent and unrestricted evaluation. The French President is counting on the
self-declared virtues of nuclear energy and the exemplary nature of the French experience to convince
Europe, which is very divided on this issue.
In this light it seemed especially important to our association Global Chance (which includes among
its members several of France’s few independent nuclear experts, and produces analyses in the fields
of energy and the environment whose relevance is appreciated both in France and beyond) to offer
European decision-makers and citizens a fact-based critical analysis of the French experience, so as to
shed a more realistic light on the illusion of a nuclear ‘earthly paradise’ that France is trying to impose
on its European partners. Global Chance thereby hopes to alert international opinion to the largely
illusory nature of any plan for a massive international and European revival of nuclear power as a
means of meeting the challenges of development and the environment.
First we question the capacity of such a revival, even supposing that it met no technical, political or
economic obstacles, to make a decisive contribution within the required timescale to the underlying
goals of the ‘energy/climate package’: European energy security and a massive reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions in the short and medium term (20% to 30% by 2020, 75% by 2050).
Second, using the example of France we investigate whether the proponents of such a revival have the
industrial and economic capacity to carry it through, and the ability to contain its consequences and
risks for the environment, peace and the health of the population.
This publication appears at a time when in France, more or less for the first time, the wall of silence
that the authorities have erected around the more or less serious ‘incidents’ that have peppered the
history of the country’s nuclear industry is beginning to crack. In the climate created by the possibility
of a revival of nuclear power, the French press has taken a greater interest than usual in the various
incidents that have occurred in June and July 2008 (the halting of work on the Flamanville reactor site
by the French nuclear safety authority, radioactive pollution in the water table at Tricastin, a fire in the
Finnish EPR etc). Both the press and public opinion have rediscovered the obscurity which in France
cloaks the whole management of nuclear power’s inherent risks, and the disdain for the populace that
this implies.
This is just one more reason to make this dossier, which we have entitled Nuclear power, the great
illusion, widely available both to the public and to decision-makers.

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