France to build new generation nuke plant

Saturday, July 5, 2008

LE CREUSOT, July 3: President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Thursday that France will build a second third-generation EPR nuclear plant, arguing that nuclear power was France’s best answer to soaring energy prices.

“We are going to build a new EPR nuclear reactor, separate from the one in Flamanville,” Sarkozy said in a speech on energy policy as he visited an ArcelorMittal steel factory in central France.

France’s first European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) — one of only two under construction worldwide — is being built by utilities giant Electricite de France (EDF) in Flamanville in northern France, set for completion in 2012.

EDF, which operates France’s 58 existing nuclear plants, immediately issued a statement welcoming Sarkozy’s decision and saying it was “prepared to commit to this project”.

Sarkozy did not specify when or where the new EPR, designed by French giant Areva as a safer and cleaner model of nuclear reactor, would be built, but he staunchly defended the decision to step up French investment in nuclear power.

“The days of cheap oil are over. More than ever, nuclear is an industry for the future and an indispensable energy source,” he said, arguing that nuclear power produced electricity 30 to 50 per cent cheaper than either gas or coal.

“Each EPR saves two billion cubic metres of gas when it replaces a gas plant, and 11 million tons of carbon dioxide per year when it replaces a coal plant,” he argued.

“We can be electricity exporters when we have neither oil nor gas. This is an historic chance for development.” The world’s second producer of nuclear energy after the United States, France is vying to lead a worldwide revival of the industry, fuelled by worries about global warming and rising energy prices.

Nuclear power accounts for 87 per cent of France’s electricity production, and its national champions EDF and Areva are world leaders in their field.

But the Greenpeace environmental group savaged the decision to build a second EPR as “shocking” and “stupid”, calling it a “serious fault” in terms of energy policy.

France’s Green Party also attacked the EPR as “useless, dangerous and expensive,” saying the estimated three-billion-euro ($4.75billion) cost would be better spent on renewable energies.

“France is becoming a nuclear show-room for Sarkozy the sales rep and Areva,” it charged in a statement.

Since Sarkozy’s election last year, France has signed cooperation accords on civilian nuclear energy with Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Libya and Jordan.

Areva, French oil giant Total and energy group Suez have partnered up to supply two EPR reactors to the United Arab Emirates.—AFP

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