Sunday, 24 April 2011

Human cost of nuclear power too high - German minister

Reg Illingworth attended the AGM of the nuclear corporation RWE, at which protestors stood up and shouted, waving banners and placards saying Shut them down.

French nuclear subcontractors seek equal rights-union

Friday Apr 22, 2011 3:52pm GMT

* EDF subcontracts 80 percent of work on its reactors
* Radiation levels 3.5 times higher for subcontractors-union

PARIS, April 22 (Reuters) - Subcontractors in France's state-owned nuclear industry are calling for the same job security and conditions as employees of government-controlled utility EDF, the CFDT union said on Friday.

France, which is the world's most nuclear-dependent country, subcontracts 80 percent of the maintenance at its 58 nuclear reactors to firms such as Vinci, GDF Suez and Bouygues.

"The use of subcontractors in nuclear power plants means that utilities escape all responsibility of staff management, gain more flexibility and transfer professional risk and hardship," the CFDT union said in a statement.

While EDF staffers have public sector contracts, which means a job for life, subcontractors from the private sector are vulnerable to job cuts, because their firms risk losing contracts with EDF every three years.

"Workers of nuclear reactor operators have better social rights than subcontractors," the CFDT added.

EDF says it requires subcontractors to carry out maintenance of nuclear reactors because of the highly specialised aspects of the work, such as changing the fuel.

But subcontractors say they receive 80 percent of the global radiation dose during maintenance works and have more work accidents than EDF workers, CFDT said.

They also say radiation levels are three and a half times higher for subcontractors than for EDF staff and that they do not benefit from the same medical check-ups, it added.

Subcontractors have long called for a single status for nuclear workers, and Japan's Fukushima disaster last month could support their argument. (Reporting by Muriel Boselli, editing by Jane Baird)