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Nuclear News - 12/6/2011
PGS Nuclear News, December 6, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Hopes Revive for India-Japan Civil Nuclear Cooperation Deal, Sachin Parashar, The Times of India (12/4/2011)
    2. Australia's Ruling Labor Clears Uranium Sales to India, James Grubel, Reuters (12/3/2011)
    3. Lower House Committee Approves Nuke Export Deals With Four Nations, Masami Ito, The Japan Times (12/2/2011)
    4. Russian Specialists Embark on Construction of Vietnamese Nuke Plant, RIA Novosti (12/2/2011)
    5. US, Kazakhstan Sign Nuclear Security Agreement, Central Asia Newswire (12/2/2011)
    6. Amman Extends Search for Nuclear Plant Partner, Taylor Luck, The Jordan Times (12/1/2011)
B.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Greenpeace Activists Break Into French Nuclear Reactor, Tara Patel, Bloomberg, Business Week (12/5/2011)
    2. IAEA to Review Safety Measures in Nuke Plants, Hindustan Times (12/2/2011)
    3. Japan May Announce Fukushima Cold Shutdown on Dec. 16: Yomiuri, Stanley White, Reuters (12/1/2011)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Saudi Arabia May Export Power Once Nuclear Plants Are Built, Sarah Abdullah, Business Week (12/4/2011)
    2. Central Panel on KNPP to Meet in Three Weeks, IBN Live (12/3/2011)
    3. Vietnam Nuclear Reactor Fully Converted to Low-Enriched Uranium, Thanh Nien News (12/2/2011)
    4. France's Election Heats Up over Nuclear Power, Tara Patel, Bloomberg, Business Week (12/1/2011)
D.  Links of Interest
    1. Indonesia’s Long, Winding Road to Nuclear Power, The Jakarta Post (12/5/2011)
    2. Why Has Britain Done a U-Turn on Plutonium?, Nature (12/5/2011)
    3. The High Price of Nukes: Weapons We Don't Need at a Cost We Can't Afford, The Huffington Post (12/2/2011)

A.  Nuclear Cooperation

Hopes Revive for India-Japan Civil Nuclear Cooperation Deal
Sachin Parashar
The Times of India
(for personal use only)

As India prepares to welcome new Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda later this month, it now has reasons to believe that the almost moribund negotiations with Japan for civil nuclear cooperation could soon be revived.

Paving the way for resumption of Japan's nuclear exports, the foreign relations committee of Japanese parliament Diet's House of Representatives, the Lower House, approved bilateral agreements for the same with four countries - Russia, South Korea, China and Vietnam.

These agreements will come up for voting in what is being seen as a near-certain approval in both the Houses next week. Indian officials are hoping that Noda's enthusiasm, despite public criticism, in overturning his predecessor Naoto Kan's policy to discourage nuclear exports after Fukushima will translate into renewal of civil nuclear talks with India.

Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Gemba said in his statement before the foreign affairs committee that Japan is also looking at finalizing similar agreements with India and four other countries - Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and UAE - with which it had entered negotiations before the March 11 tsunami and earthquake in Fukushima.

Civil nuclear cooperation with Japan is a necessity for both India and the US as it will lift nuclear and high-tech export controls to enable major US suppliers like GE and Westinghouse, who have either Japanese owners or partners, to carry out nuclear commerce with India. The last time India and Japan held discussions for civil nuclear agreement was in November, 2010.

Speaking before the committee, Noda also said that Japan would not transfer nuclear technology without any restriction, keeping in mind the need for safety and its peaceful use. It remains to be seen what kind of assurance Japan seeks from India before going back to the negotiating table. It has been critically examining India's record in fulfilling commitments made by India before NSG in September, 2008, which allowed New Delhi to conduct nuclear commerce.

It maintains that it has differences with India over NPT, which New Delhi is not going to sign, and that it wants India to sign and ratify CTBT.

Close to 30% of its total electricity production in 2009 came through nuclear power and Japan aimed to ramp it up to over 40% cent by 2019 when Fukushima happened. It was also forced to abandon all negotiations for nuclear exports in the face of pressure from not just the public but also from within the government, including then PM Kan himself.

Noda insisted that Japan's diplomatic relation should be taken into account with not just the four countries with which it had already signed the accord but also with countries like India and Brazil with which it initiated negotiations before the Fukushima disaster.

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Australia's Ruling Labor Clears Uranium Sales to India
James Grubel
(for personal use only)

Australia's ruling Labor Party on Sunday endorsed plans to open up uranium sales to India, clearing the way for talks on a bilateral nuclear agreement and resolving an issue that has caused diplomatic tensions between the two nations.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the plan in November, but needed her party's national policy conference to overturn its ban on selling uranium to countries which are not signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Gillard successfully pushed her uranium policy through the conference, despite an often heated debate and chants from protesters who remain opposed to nuclear energy and weapons.

"We should take a decision that is in our nation's interest, a decision about strengthening our strategic partnership with India in this the Asian century," Gillard said, adding Australia already sold uranium to China, the United States and Japan.

Australia has almost 40 percent of the world's known uranium reserves, but supplies only 19 percent of the world market. It has no nuclear power stations.

India, Asia's third-largest economy and the world's largest democracy, has long complained about the Australian ban and wants more access to uranium to meet an ambitious target for nuclear energy, with plans to build 30 nuclear power stations in the next 20 years.

The move to allow sales to India follows a landmark U.S. agreement to support the civil nuclear program in India, signed in 2008.

Australia's uranium industry welcomed the policy shift, which it said could lead to more Indian investment in Australian mining projects.

"Chinese, Japanese and Russian companies are seeking out these opportunities and we would expect Indian companies will do the same," Australian Uranium Association chief executive Michael Angwin

He said India would potentially buy up to 2,500 tons of Australian uranium a year by 2030, although the first sales could still be some years away as it could take several years to negotiate a nuclear safeguards agreement.

Before selling uranium, Australia negotiates nuclear safeguards agreements with customer nations to ensure nuclear material can only be used for energy and not for nuclear weapons.

Australia now has four mines, BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam, potentially the world's biggest; Energy Resources Australia's Ranger mine; the Beverly mine, owned by U.S. company General Atomics, and Honeymoon mines, owned by Uranium One and Mitsui & Co.

Canberra has forecast uranium exports to rise from around 10,000 tons a year to 14,000 tons in 2014, worth around A$1.7 billion ($1.74 billion).

Sunday's party vote was a victory for Gillard, but exposed deep divisions within the government over nuclear energy, with Transport Minister Anthony Albanese leading opposition to any sales to India or expansion of exports.

Albanese said since Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March, most nations, including Germany, Switzerland and Italy, were winding back their commitment to nuclear energy.

"Under these circumstances, it is absurd that we should be expanding ours," Albanese told the

Former anti-nuclear campaigner and rock singer Peter Garrett, whose band Midnight Oil railed against nuclear energy, said Labor needed to honor its support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Labor has a great disarmament tradition," Garrett, who is now Australia's Schools Education Minister, told the conference.

"Where is our vision here? Where is our commitment to a nuclear free future?"

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Lower House Committee Approves Nuke Export Deals With Four Nations
Masami Ito
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)

While the battle goes on to bring the Fukushima No. 1 plant under control, the government moved a step closer Friday to resuming exports of Japan's nuclear technology as a Lower House committee approved ratification of accords with four countries.

The Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Democratic Party both voted in favor of the bilateral agreements with Jordan, Vietnam, South Korea and Russia at the Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The full chamber was to vote on the pacts later Friday, but at the request of opposition parties the action was postponed till Tuesday.

Despite the delay, the treaties are expected to be approved by the Lower House and will likely clear the Upper House before the current Diet session closes Dec. 9.

Appearing before the foreign affairs committee, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stressed the importance for Japan to export nuclear technology.

"I think that above all, it is our duty to share our experience, the lessons, and knowledge of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant with the world," Noda said. "I think it is meaningful to provide (nuclear technology) with high-level safety while grasping the situation of the other countries."

Noda also suggested nuclear plants may be exported to countries other than those four in the future if more seek Japanese technology despite the March 11 accident.

"For countries that say they need Japan's technology, we will deal with and decide each case individually," he said.

But as Japan tries to resolve the crisis at the Fukushima plant, national policy has taken a completely different turn and domestic reliance on nuclear energy is coming in for major reductions.

Also, some opposition parties, including New Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party and Social
Democratic Party, have argued strongly that it is "premature" for Japan to resume nuclear exports.

"Japan . . . is still in the middle of dealing with the nuclear accident and the country has not reached a final conclusion on the position of its own nuclear power plants," Masao Akamatsu of New Komeito said during the committee session. "Nothing has been settled and it is still premature."

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Russian Specialists Embark on Construction of Vietnamese Nuke Plant
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Russian specialists have started construction works on the Ninh Thuan nuclear power plant in Vietnam, a spokesman for Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom said on Friday.

“Our Vietnamese partners on December 1 issued a document agreeing the beginning of work, on December 2 Russian specialists commenced the construction,” said Pyotr Shchedrovitsky, advisor to Rosatom’s CEO.

According to a Russia-Vietnamese intergovernmental agreement, the Ninh Thuan nuclear plant will be constructed by 2020. It will have two power units.

There are ten drilling rigs and twenty units of construction equipment at the site of the future plant.

Ninh Thuan is expected to contribute to meeting power demands for socio-economic development, enhancing national energy security and improving the country’s atomic energy technologies.

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US, Kazakhstan Sign Nuclear Security Agreement
Central Asia Newswire
(for personal use only)

The United States said Thursday it has secured a deal with Kazakhstan to bolster collaborative efforts to enhance nuclear security and safeguards.

The Kazakh Ministry of Industry and New Technology (MINT) signed an Implementing Arrangement with the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to promote expanded cooperation in nuclear security and safeguards, the US embassy in Astana said in a press release.

The document was signed by Kazakh deputy minister of MINT Bakhytzhan Dzhaksaliyev and Daniel Poneman, US deputy secretary of energy.

"The Implementing Arrangement is an important next step in our cooperation with Kazakhstan that advances our joint interest in ensuring the highest possible standards for nuclear material safeguards and security," the embassy statement cited Poneman as saying, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The agreement provides a framework to expand technical cooperation in containment and surveillance of nuclear materials, nuclear safety and waste management, nuclear forensics, and information management, the press release said.

It also authorizes the expansion of enhanced bilateral training and outreach to third countries, it said, according to the news agency.

In October, nuclear scientists completed conversion of 72 pounds of highly dangerous nuclear material into low-enriched uranium in a highly-secretive operation undertaken by the two countries.

In November 2010, the United States revealed completion of a top-secret year-long mission to transport 14 tons of uranium and plutonium from a defunct Soviet-era nuclear reactor several thousand miles across the vast Kazakh steppes to a high security location.

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Amman Extends Search for Nuclear Plant Partner
Taylor Luck
The Jordan Times
(for personal use only)

Amidst increased interest among international energy utilities in Jordan’s nuclear programme, energy officials are extending their search for a strategic investor to help build the country’s first nuclear reactor.

Energy officials have pushed back proposal deadlines to February to field further expressions of interest from international operators, according to Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Vice Chairman Kamal Araj.

While financing remains a challenge for the Kingdom’s nuclear ambitions, the stalling of several programmes across the world due to safety concerns in the aftermath of the Fukushima incident earlier this year has made the nuclear industry a “buyer’s market”, according to the JAEC.

“There is increased competition among vendors and utilities, and for countries pursuing peaceful nuclear energy such as Jordan, this is a positive development,” Araj said.

The Kingdom’s nuclear programme has attracted the interest of several major utilities, including French energy giant GDF Suez, China’s Datang International Power Generation Co., Russian Rosatom Corp. and Japanese Kansai Electric Power, according to the commission.

Under the JAEC’s proposal, the strategic investor would alleviate Jordan’s financial burden by providing up to half of the funding for the nuclear reactor, expected to be built by the end of the decade, with the government retaining a 26 to 51 per cent equity share in the power plant.

Officials view the addition of a strategic partner as key to overcoming the obstacle of capital costs - estimated at $5-10 billion - that would push the Kingdom over its legally enforced debt ceiling of 60 per cent of the gross domestic product.

In parallel with the search for an international investor, Jordan is evaluating three short-listed technologies for the country’s first reactor: AtomStroy Export, Canada’s AECL, and a joint consortium comprising French AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The Kingdom is expected to announce both its chosen reactor vendor and strategic investor in the first quarter of 2012.

Energy officials are reaching out for a strategic partner amidst growing questions over the feasibility of the nuclear drive, with anti-nuclear activists pointing to intensive water needs, potential environmental impact, and conflicting estimates over the viability of uranium reserves as grounds to freeze the programme.

Officials highlight stable electricity prices and a low carbon footprint among nuclear power’s advantages.

Overall plans call for the construction of up to four 1,000-megawatt reactors to transform the Kingdom from an energy importer to an exporter.

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B.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Greenpeace Activists Break Into French Nuclear Reactor
Tara Patel, Bloomberg
Business Week
(for personal use only)

Greenpeace activists broke into a nuclear reactor southeast of Paris to highlight what the environmental group said was a lack of security at France’s atomic plants.

“This is proof security measures are totally ineffective,” Greenpeace said today in a statement after nine members gained access to Electricite de France SA’s Nogent-sur- Seine plant.
EDF, the operator of France’s 58 reactors, said the intruders entered the site before dawn after cutting through a fence that runs around the perimeter.

“There will be lessons learned,” Dominique Miniere, EDF’s head of French nuclear reactors, told a press conference in Paris where the company is based. “We are in the process of improving the detection and protection systems at our sites. We’ll see if we have to go further.”

Greenpeace and EDF have been in conflict for years over France’s power production, more than three-quarters of which is nuclear. Atomic safety has received more scrutiny in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima atomic disaster, with opposition parties in France calling for some reactors to be shut down.

“I am surprised because our plants are well-guarded,” French Industry Minister Eric Besson said in an interview on France Info radio in response to the break-in. “This would mean that there was a malfunctioning and we would have to take measures so this doesn’t happen again.”

The industry and interior ministries will carry out an “in-depth investigation,” Besson’s office said later.
None of the campaigners breached a “highly protected zone” where the nuclear, fuel and control installations are located, although they did get through the first two lines of defense, according to Miniere.

France’s nuclear regulator is carrying out safety checks on EDF’s reactors as well as other atomic installations in France to determine whether they are safe to operate following the meltdown at the Japanese reactor. The audits are examining whether the sites are able to withstand earthquakes, floods and loss of power and cooling systems.

Their scope should be widened to test for other types of risks to nuclear plants such as terrorist attacks, plane crashes and computer bugs, Greenpeace said today.

Seven of the protesters were caught within two hours of breaking into the plant just after 6 a.m. local time, while the remaining two eluded capture for another two hours, according to EDF.

“We sought to apprehend them in a peaceful way after realizing they were Greenpeace militants,” Miniere said. “If they were terrorists, we would have stopped them in a very different way.”

EDF pays heavily-armed French police to protect its 19 nuclear plants including Nogent, he said.

Greenpeace militants have breached nuclear installations at least five times in recent years, sometimes staying as long as a day to deploy banners on coolant towers.

They were caught “much faster this time than in the past,” said Miniere. Detection systems and cameras kept tabs on the “highly-trained” intruders that French police had trouble chasing because they were weighed down with heavy equipment including arms, he said.

Greenpeace banners put up at EDF nuclear sites at Chinon and Blayais were pulled down, the company said.

“It’s irresponsible to take risks with their lives and the lives of others,” President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

Today’s intrusion at the Nogent-sur-Seine site follows surprise safety inspections Nov. 30 by the atomic regulator and lawmakers at the Blayais and Paluel reactor plants.

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IAEA to Review Safety Measures in Nuke Plants
Hindustan Times
(for personal use only)

India will invite the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) operational safety review team to assist in safety reviews and audit of nuclear power plants.

The move is part of steps being undertaken by the government to the address safety concerns, relating to nuclear plants, in the aftermath of the devastating accident at Fukushima plant in Japan.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) reviewed the safety of all nuclear plants, particularly the steps taken, after the crisis at Fukushima and the proposed steps to be taken thereafter.

Apart from inviting the IAEA team, the CCS was told that a technical safety review of the nuclear facilities had been completed, particularly in context of their ability to withstand large natural disasters.

"Recommendations to enhance safety, wherever required, are being implemented," an official spokesperson said.

Reiterating that safety of nuclear power plants was a matter of highest priority the CCS also reviewed the action taken following the incident of radiation in Mayapuri in Delhi in 2010.

The Fukushima plant was reportedly not prepared for a 15-metre-high tsunami that struck the plant in March 2011, reigniting safety concerns about nuclear plants in many parts of the world.

In India, anti-nuclear protesters have highlighted the accident by stalling nuclear-power plant projects, particularly the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. It was scheduled to be commissioned this month, but the decision had to be put on hold to address the fears of the local population.

"Mechanisms for responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies are being strengthened in coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority," the spokesperson added, pointing that additional emergency response centres would be set up in this context.

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Japan May Announce Fukushima Cold Shutdown on Dec. 16: Yomiuri
Stanley White
(for personal use only)

Japan may announce on December 16 that tsunami-damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima are in a cold shutdown, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Friday, an important milestone in its plan to bring under control the worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was wrecked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which knocked out reactor cooling systems, causing meltdowns of nuclear fuel rods.

A cold shutdown is when water used to cool nuclear fuel rods remains below its boiling point, preventing the fuel from reheating.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda may declare a cold shutdown because a November 30 analysis by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co showed that temperatures for the nuclear fuel lying at the bottom of the containment vessel have stabilized, the paper said.

Radiation levels at the reactors have also fallen significantly, it said.

Declaring a cold shutdown will have repercussions well beyond the plant as it is one of the criteria the government has said must be met before it begins allowing 80,000 residents evacuated from within a 20 km (12 mile) radius of the plant to return home.

But even if a cold shutdown is declared, Tokyo Electric has acknowledged before that it may be unable to remove the fuel from the reactors for another 10 years, and experts say the cleanup at the plant could take several decades.

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C.  Nuclear Energy

Saudi Arabia May Export Power Once Nuclear Plants Are Built
Sarah Abdullah
Business Week
(for personal use only)

Saudi Arabia may export electricity to its neighbors after building nuclear reactors planned over the next 20 years, an official at the King Abdullah City of Atomic and Renewable Energy said.

“We are not ruling that out, once our nuclear project is complete and we have satisfied the kingdom’s demand for electricity,” Khalid Al-Sulaiman, vice president of renewable energy at King Abdullah City said at a forum in Jeddah today.

The Arab world’s largest economy needs an additional 2,000 megawatts of electricity a year to meet local needs that the government forecasts to rise by 7 percent annually, according to data from state-owned Saudi Electricity Co., the country’s largest utility.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer in OPEC, faces rising electricity demand from industries as it seeks to diversify its crude-dependent economy. The government sees nuclear energy as an additional source of power, along with natural gas and oil, which it burns as fuel in its generating stations.

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Central Panel on KNPP to Meet in Three Weeks
IBN Live
(for personal use only)

The central government committee, appointed to allay the fears of locals about the safety of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu, will meet in three weeks to discuss the panel's responses to the issues raised by protestors and people, an official said Saturday.

"The committee is studying the issues raised by the members of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). The issues were raised by them during our second meeting with the state government appointed panel," A.E. Muthunayagam, convenor of the 15-member expert panel on the KNPP, told IANS.

"We are open to meet the state panel members once again but not any other forum unless mandated by the government," he added.

India's nuclear power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW atomic power reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.

Villagers fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident.

Their agitation has put a stop to the project work, delaying the commissioning of the first unit and increasing the project cost from the budgeted Rs.13,171 crore.

The central and state governments have formed two panels on the issue. The state panel has the representatives of the PMANE that is spearheading the movement against the Kudankulam nucler power plant.

As per plans, the central panel would meet the state panel and explain the safety features and other aspects of the KNPP. The state panel will, in turn, allay the fears of the people.

Reiterating their stand that the centre's panel will not meet any other group, Muthunayagam said: "Our mandate is to meet the state panel. We have met them twice and would meet them again. As of now, there is no mandate for us to meet any other panel."

The PMANE wants the central panel to meet the people and explain the safety features or meet a panel of experts constituted by the former.

The central expert panel was not allowed to make a power point presentation to the state panel on
reactor design, safety features, among other issues.

"The PMANE members Nov 18 said they are not interested in the presentation and wanted us to give it in report form. In three weeks time, our members will meet at Kanyakumari," another member of the central panel told IANS, requesting anonymity.

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Vietnam Nuclear Reactor Fully Converted to Low-Enriched Uranium
Thanh Nien News
(for personal use only)

The only nuclear reactor in Da Lat on Thursday was completely converted from highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium fuel as part of Vietnam’s commitment to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes, VnExpress reported.

Vietnam and the United States reached an agreement to complete the full conversion of the Da Lat research reactor last December following the March 2010 signing of a broad memorandum of understanding to deepen civilian nuclear cooperation.

The US, Russia, and the International Atomic Energy Agency initiated a trilateral fuel removal program in December 1999, with discussions on repatriating Russian-supplied highly enriched uranium (HEU) at nuclear research reactors outside Russia.

They identified more than 20 such reactors in 18 countries, including one in Da Lat.

The Da Lat Nuclear Research Institute operates the 500-kilowatt reactor, built with US assistance in 1963, to produce medical isotopes and to conduct nuclear research.

In September 2007, the National Nuclear Security Administration assisted Vietnam in partially converting the Da Lat research reactor from HEU to LEU fuel, and returning 4.3 kg of fresh HEU to Russia.

On Dec. 1, 2010, the United States and Vietnam established a legal framework for US-Vietnam cooperation for full conversion and the return of HEU spent fuel from Da Lat to Russia.

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France's Election Heats Up over Nuclear Power
Tara Patel, Bloomberg
Business Week
(for personal use only)

For decades the French political elite has agreed that nuclear energy is the best way to power the nation, and today France gets nearly three-quarters of its electricity from its 58 reactors—a far greater share than any other country. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan last March, though, unified support for nuclear power is crumbling.

On Nov. 15 the opposition Socialist and Green parties issued a joint pledge to close 24 reactors by 2025. The statement was a compromise between the Socialists, who seek to boost use of renewable energy, and the Greens, who want to ban nukes. Under the proposal, the country’s oldest plant, 33-year-old Fessenheim near the Swiss border, would be shut down immediately if the Socialists win the presidential election next spring. The plan is “about moving progressively away from all-oil for transport and all-nuclear for electricity,” Socialist leader François Hollande wrote in an opinion piece in Le Monde.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces a strong challenge from Hollande in the election, says the plan would lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses, higher electricity rates, and an exodus of heavy industry. “We should not return to an era of candlelight,” Sarkozy told reporters on Nov. 25 during a tour of a uranium enrichment facility under construction at Tricastin, in southeastern France. “This isn’t the time to go back to the Middle Ages, to medieval fears when people were scared of progress.”

Opinion polls show support for atomic energy has eroded since Fukushima. Forty percent of the French are “hesitant” about nukes while a third are in favor and 17 percent are against, according to a survey by pollster Ifop published on Nov. 13. Nearly two-thirds of supporters of Sarkozy’s governing UMP party say they back nuclear power, while half of Socialist supporters are unsure.

France’s nuclear program was started under President Charles de Gaulle in a bid to make the country self-sufficient in electricity. Between 1978 and 2002, 58 reactors were commissioned. State-controlled utility Electricité de France and nuclear technology developer Areva are building a 59th at Flamanville and are planning another at Penly, both on the English Channel.

Before the political debate erupted, EDF announced that the annual bill for maintaining French reactors could more than double by 2015 as the utility seeks to prolong their lives. EDF may also be forced to increase spending on safety measures following audits by the French atomic regulator as a result of Fukushima. The utility’s shares have fallen about 40 percent since the Japanese accident, including a 9 percent drop in the two days after the unveiling of the Socialist/Green plan.

On the campaign trail, Green candidate Eva Joly has called French Industry Minister Eric Besson a “nucleopath” for his unwavering support of atomic energy. In a speech to Parliament, Besson countered that the Socialists “want us to believe that nuclear engineers and other workers can overnight become installers of solar panels and wind turbines. … We have to stop this masquerade.”

As economic growth slows and unemployment rises amid the European debt crisis, nuclear jobs will be a focus of the debate, potentially dividing left-leaning voters. Many Socialist lawmakers are staunch supporters of atomic energy, and labor unions have long backed nukes. “The French are a bit baffled by the nuclear question,” says Jérôme Fourquet, a director at Ifop. “Nuclear power wasn’t necessarily popular in France, but it was accepted.”

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D.  Links of Interest

Indonesia’s Long, Winding Road to Nuclear Power
The Jakarta Post
(for personal use only)

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Why Has Britain Done a U-Turn on Plutonium?
(for personal use only)

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The High Price of Nukes: Weapons We Don't Need at a Cost We Can't Afford
The Huffington Post
(for personal use only)

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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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