Tag Archives: France nuclear energy

The Inevitability of Nuclear Power

Hinkley Point B nuclear power station, UK

[A third nuclear reactor is to be built in Flamanville, France  by Electricité de France (EDF)]…Called Flamanville 3, is likely to become the focus of international attention because it is the model for an imminent expansion across the channel…EDF has agreed on October 21st agreed with China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN), a state-owned entity, to build two reactors of the same design in south-west England called Hinkley Point C. EDF will own two-thirds of the project and CGN a third. The plant in Somerset is supposed to open by 2025, after construction that is forecast to cost £24.5 billion ($37.8 billion)…

The history of Flamanville 3, where work began in 2007, indicates how difficult that might be. It was planned as a five-year scheme, but this month EDF, which is mostly state-owned, formally asked officials to extend the deadline to 2020. Its original budget of €3.3 billion has more than tripled, to €10.5 billion ($11.9 billion). Getting its new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) into service is proving harder than expected. One problem is the troubled condition of Areva, another mostly state-owned French firm, which supplies reactor components. It reported losses of nearly €5 billion in March, because of soaring costs and long delays at the only other EPR being built in Europe, Olkiluoto 3, in Finland. Work began in 2005 but it will not open before 2018 at the earliest.

The main technical problem at Flamanville 3 concerns suspicions of high levels of carbon in the steel of a crucial component, the vessel, already installed under the dome of the new reactor. Replacing it now, if inspectors conclude it is too brittle, would be costly. In June the company also said it was double-checking the working of safety valves.

Meanwhile EDF’s financial burden grows. It boasts of €73 billion in global revenues, but faces a threefold strain. Demand for electricity is stalling in France, its main market—and, as problematic, the country plans to cut nuclear’s share of electricity generation to half of the total, by 2025, from 75%. Next, though details are not finalised, EDF will absorb the nuclear unit of troubled Areva. Last, it has to upgrade, or at least maintain, France’s stock of ageing reactors. Mr Lévy told French radio on October 18th that capital expenditure for that alone would be around €50 billion.

No wonder ratings agencies judge that EDF’s financial prospects are secure only because of its state backing.

EDF’s prospects, indeed those of any nuclear company, depend on the backing of politicians who want to preserve nuclear expertise and jobs at home. 

EDF’s Nuclear Ambitions: French Lessons, Economist,Oct. 24, 2015, at 63

Fourth Generation Nuclear Reactors: Japan and France


Shinzo Abe (Japan)  and French President Francois Hollande agreed to “intensify their civil nuclear research,” according to a joint statement issued Monday following a meeting between the two leaders in Paris.

As part of Abe’s state visit, the Japanese ministries of economy and science and France’s atomic research institute signed an accord to cooperate on a project for a so-called fourth generation fast-breeder reactor called Astrid. Fast-breeder generators are designed to produce, or “breed,” more fuel than they consume for reuse in nuclear fission…

In 2011..France earmarked €652 million ($905 million) to develop a 600-megawatt Astrid prototype by around 2020 with a plan to deploy a fleet starting in 2040. Astrid stands for Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration.  The generator is said to be of the fourth generation because it would come after a model being built now in France, Finland and China called the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), which is considered third generation.

Future reactors like Astrid would be able to produce as much as 100 times more power using the same quantity of uranium fuel. They would also burn long-lived radioactive waste.

Even with Japan’s nuclear industry hobbled by the aftermath of Fukushima, the Abe government has been actively marketing Japanese nuclear technology around the world. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Areva signed a $22 billion agreement in May 2013 to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey, the first major order for Japan since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

France decided to close its Superphenix fast-breeder reactor in 1998 following radioactive leaks. Japan’s Monju reactor is idled and has been plagued by challenges including a sodium leak. India has its own fast-breeder reactor program.

Excerpt, Japan to work with France on future fast-breeder atomic reactor, Bloomberg, May 6, 2014

See also Fourth Generation Nuclear Reactors

Multinational Nuclear Energy Company Found Guilty of Hacking Activists Computers

France’s state energy firm EDF has been fined €1.5m by a Paris court for spying on Greenpeace.  Its head of nuclear production security in 2006, Pascal Durieux, was given a three-year sentence with two years suspended, and a €10,000 fine for commissioning the spying. The Nanterre court also sentenced the security No 2 in 2006, Pierre-Paul François, to three years, 30 months suspended. EDF has also been ordered to pay €500,000 in damages to Greenpeace.  The judge further handed down a guilty verdict on Thierry Lorho, head of Kargus, a firm employed by EDF to hack into Greenpeace’s computers. He got three years in jail, two suspended, and a €4,000 fine.

EDF is the world’s biggest nuclear energy supplier; it owns the UK nuclear power operator, British Energy, and is a major sponsor of the London Olympics. It was charged with complicity in concealing stolen documents and complicity to intrude on a computer network. EDF and Greenpeace have fought for years over France’s power production, more than three-quarters of it nuclear. According to confidential court testimony released by a French website, Mediapart, two years ago, EDF had organised surveillance not only of Greenpeace in France, but broadly across Europe since 2004.  In 2006, EDF hired a detective agency, Kargus Consultants, run by a former member of France’s secret services, to find out about Greenpeace France’s intentions and its plan to block new nuclear plants in the UK. The agency hacked the computer of Yannick Jadot, Greenpeace’s then campaigns director, taking 1,400 documents.

An EDF official had no immediate comment. In the trial, EDF said it had victim of overzealous efforts, and had been unaware anyone would hack a computer. “The fine and the damages awarded send a strong signal to the nuclear industry that nobody is above the law,” said Adélaïde Colin for Greenpeace France. “In the runup to the next presidential elections … voters should keep this scandal in mind.”

The outrage among anti-nuclear campaigners echoes that which emerged when it was revealed that France’s secret services were behind the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior 26 years ago. Moreover, safety is a very live issue since Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Excerpt, EDF fined €1.5m for spying on Greenpeace, Guardian, Nov. 10, 2011