Saturday, 23 January 2010

Bitter row throws French nuclear industry into turmoil

The French nuclear industry is in turmoil as uranium supplies
have dried up and the treatment of spent fu el has been blocked
amid an increasingly bitter row between the heads of its two
main state operators.

EDF, the electricity group that runs 58 reactors in France, said
that Areva, the nuclear energy group, had stopped uranium
deliveries on January 4 and was refusing to take away spent
fuel for reprocessing.

''The transport of combustibles isn't working at the moment,''
Anne Lauvergeon, the chairwoman of Areva, said.

As a result, used fuel is remaining at EDF sites instead of being
reprocessed at La Hague treatment plant in northern France.
Mrs Lauvergeon blamed a breakdown in talks over a new 800
million contract with EDF to process spent fuel.

''We've been talking for too long,' she said, calling on President
Sarkozy's Government to resolve the dispute.

Although Areva supplies 68 per cent of the uranium used in
EDF's reactors, which themselves produce 77 per cent of
electricity in France, the electricity group said it had enough
stocks to last several months without envisaging power cuts.

A spokesman said that it could keep spent fuel at its plants
without risk of a radioactive leak.

But the dispute is certain to damage the reputation of the two
nuclear operators, which are both among the world's biggest.
As insults flew between the two state-owned groups, which are
both significant players in Britain's energy sector, Areva denied
that it had stopped uranium supplies but confirmed EDF's claims
about the block on treating spent fuel.

The dispute comes amid tense relations between Mrs
Lauvergeon and Henri Proglio, who followed his appointment
as chairman of EDF in November with a call for a shake-up of
the French nuclear sector.

Their squabble has been cited as one of the factors behind
France's failure to secure a 30 billion contract to build reactors
in Abu Dhabi. The contract went to a South Korean consortium
led by Korea Electric Power, and Mrs Lauvergeon implicitly
blamed EDF for failing to back her in the negotiations.

''I fully assume my responsibilities and those of Areva, but I don't
intend to assume other people's,'' she said. She added:
'South Korea was ready to do anything to win, in
terms of price and in state financing.''
Adam Sage, Paris -- The Times, January 19, 2010

Do we really want these French companies to build new nuclear power plants in the UK?

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