Saturday, July 09, 2011

Safe(r) ?

I've just read in Le Monde an interview with the former President of the French nuclear giant AREVA, Anne Lauvergeon who was defenestrated by President Sarkozy a few days ago.

As you would expect, Ms. Lauvergeon defends her performance during her ten-year tenure at the helm of the State controlled company involved in every stage of the nuclear cycle, from uranium mining and enrichment, nuclear power plant design and manufacture, to spent fuel reprocessing and radioactive waste management and transport, nuclear weapon-grade plutonium production, etc.

But there is one thing that strikes me at the end end of the article: in defence of AREVA's costly EPR nuclear reactor (marketed as "third generation" reactor), Anne Lauvergeon says "we're heading towards a safer nuclear industry".

I find this statement amazing. Since 1978 (when the first shipment of nuclear spent fuel from Japan travelled by sea to La Hague's nuclear reprocessing plant in Northern France, and I was there to "welcome" it with the Rainbow Warrior), I've been dealing in various stages of my life with AREVA (previously called COGEMA).  And during these three decades they have always maintained that their techology and operations were "absolutely safe".

To be safe is very much like being pregnant, I thought: you can't be half pregnant, you are or you aren't. You can't be half safe, you are or you aren't.  So, what up? Tell us more Madame Lauvergeon.