French nuclear watchdog urges more safety

2012-01-03 21:18

Paris - A French nuclear watchdog on Tuesday called for the country's plants to beef up safety to cope with natural disasters under a programme likely to cost tens of billions of euros, but said none faced any immediate shut-down.

It also called for a "rapid reaction force" to be operational by the end of 2014 that could intervene in a nuclear accident in less than 24 hours.

The recommendations, handed to Prime Minister Francois Fillon, were drafted by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) as part of a post-Fukushima inspection of France's nuclear industry.

"Following additional safety evaluations of priority nuclear installations, the ASN believes that the installations that have been assessed have a sufficient level of safety to warrant it not to request any immediate shut-down," it said.

"At the same time, the ASN believes that continuing operations require existing safety margins to be strengthened as swiftly as possible."

It gave operators until June 30 to spell out measures to strengthen safety in response to floods and earthquakes, providing for instance backup systems for power, coolant and plant operations.

The measures should aim at "preventing a serious accident or limiting its spread" and "limiting massive releases [of radioactivity] in an accident scenario," the ASN said.

In addition, operators should itemise their procedures for handling a crisis.


The measures will require "tens of billions of euros in investment," the ASN's president, Andre-Claude Lacoste, told a press conference.

"The work and financing are on a massive scale, requiring the hiring and training of hundreds of people," Lacoste said.

He noted that a single emergency diesel generator, designed to be protected against floods, costs "tens of millions" of euros. Another major expense would be building "bunkers" to serve as emergency backup for plant controllers.

"I don't see how this cannot have an impact on [electricity] prices," he warned.

Fillon's office said the government would ensure that the requests would be carried out "in their entirety [and] on time".

An anti-nuclear group, the Nuclear Observatory, dismissed the ASN report as a "predictable trick".

"The ASN is absolutely not independent and plays the role allotted to it by the government - to have the public believe in the feasibility of nuclear safety," it said.

France is the most nuclear-dependent country in the world, deriving 75% of its electricity needs from 58 reactors, most of which were built in response to the oil shocks of the 1970s.

Nuclear consensus

The programme gave birth to a massive state industry, with giants such as the nuclear plant builder Areva and operator Electricite de France (EdF) as well as the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), which carries out civilian and military research.

But a decades-long "nuclear consensus" gathering all the major parties was badly shaken by the March 11 earthquake that ravaged the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan.

The issue is rising up the political agenda ahead of key elections this year.

In November, the opposition Socialist Party joined with the Greens to campaign for France to scale back its reliance on nuclear to 50% by 2025 by shutting 24 reactors and boosting production from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, like his predecessors, is a champion of nuclear. He lashed the Socialist-Greens proposal as "irresponsible" and potentially crippling.

France will vote in the first round of a presidential election in April and potentially a second round in May, followed by a two-round parliamentary election in June.

Read more on:    areva  |  france  |  nuclear

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Miley Cyrus can’t get enough of her new puppy

Miley's new dog is too adorable.



13 guilty pets
Meet SA's top poacher-catcher
The unusual pets of Instagram
Bertie sets a new world record!

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Plant some seeds. Your innovative mind is on fire and your ingenious ideas may just be the seeds for future projects. You may more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.