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Greenpeace hands out warning: French nuclear industry at work


Prague, International — Greenpeace activists today presented high-level government and business delegates to the European Nuclear Energy Forum with a warning against involvement in new fault-ridden French nuclear reactors, which have been portrayed as the ‘flagship’ of a so-called nuclear renaissance.

Entitled “Warning: AREVA at work!”, the Greenpeace ‘EPR Survival Kit’ is aimed at those foolhardy enough to overlook the chronic problems affecting construction of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) compared to the benefits of investing in energy saving and renewable energy.

The brightly coloured ‘Survival Kit’ summarises the serious problems including poor quality workmanship, delays and significant cost overruns being encountered in the two EPR construction projects, in Finland and France. The EPR is a modern design of reactor developed and aggressively promoted by the French nuclear company AREVA. It promised cheap and reliable reactors.

Intentionally flippant in tone, the ‘Survival Kit’ also includes handy tips such as “Phone Paris! President Sarkozy may have some spare cash” – a reference to the Euro 570 million in loan guarantees which the French government provided for the EPR reactor in Finland. It also suggests investors get fit and don running shoes to escape the clutches of disgruntled ministers and consumers. A final suggestion is for a time machine for those regretting they were foolish enough to embark on an EPR.

“Greenpeace is urging decision makers at the European Nuclear Energy Forum to face reality, turn their backs on nuclear power and invest instead in clean energy,” said Jan Beránek, nuclear energy campaigner from Greenpeace International. “Energy saving and renewable energy offer far better value in terms of cost, safety, energy security and climate protection than nuclear power can ever do,” he added. “We don’t want decision makers to be fooled by the sweet promises of the nuclear industry. These new reactors are simply a fiasco.”

New reactor designs like the EPR place greater demands on construction because of their larger size and fuel burn-up. Stagnation in nuclear plant construction over the last decade or so has led to a shortage of competent personnel and companies. The Finnish EPR has been under construction for three years but has been blighted ever since the concrete was poured. Poor quality concrete, bad welds on the containment liner and low-quality reactor components are among its problems. The schedule for completion has been put back by more than two years and costs have exploded to over Euro 5 billion. Construction of a second EPR started in France last December. Technical problems similar to those in Finland have been reported by the French nuclear safety agency.

Information contained in the ‘Survival Kit’ regarding cost overruns with the Finnish EPR has been rendered out of date by news yesterday that additional costs may top Euro 2.2 billion.

“The reality of EPR projects is that even the French nuclear industry cannot build reactors properly. ‘Non, merci!’ should be the clear response from governments and power companies worldwide to offers of French reactors,” said Beránek.

Finnish official nuclear inspectors found that AREVA’s attempts to reduce costs had led the company to select cheap, incompetent subcontractors and overlook safety-related problems. Workers were not provided with nuclear safety training and outdated blueprints were used. Similar time and cost pressures are likely to be the Achilles heel of any other future nuclear projects, concludes Greenpeace.


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