French Elite Leads the World in Pushing Nuclear Technology: Having Technical Hiccups or Fatal Flaws?

huntz at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

There is a controversial decision to be made in Maryland soon regarding a nuclear reactor that might be built there. Similar to reactors being built in Finland that British and Finnish regulators are finding problems with, this reactor would be built largely by a French nuclear technocratic elite who are operating in a questionable and risky way.

The project in Maryland is a 4.5 billion dollar deal that is trying to skirt public service regulation. Thanks in part to a regional coalition, the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (CSEC), and their ability to get 650 petition signatures sent to the Public Service Commission (PSC), the nuclear business elite are running into responsible and practical decision-making that will give more public accountability.

An in-depth report of the history of nuclear technology in France that leads into the situation today was completed by international nuclear expert and consultant Mycle Schneider in May of this year. There are many issues put forth in this paper that are discussed in great detail and with appropriate connection to various global issues (i.e. issues regarding political conflict and the environment). Six key points from the report are introduced below:

1) the French nuclear system is a consortium of elite technocrat-engineers who are not elected and have excercized primary (if not full) control over this system for decades;

2) the group is building two nuclear reactors in Europe and they are having serious problems with delay and being over-budget;

3) the group’s influence and interests have led to numerous environmental problems regarding uranium mining around the world and have also been a driving force behind armed conflict in Niger (between the Niger national government and locals who oppose or want a fair share in the economic returns);

4) the French nuclear system never separated civil from military research and development;

5) the group dominates the international nuclear sector;

6) the group seems to be willing to distribute technology, build facilities and share nuclear know-how very indiscrimately, including to countries with fragile and even dangerous socio-political structures and to countries on both sides of major international conflicts.

The situation in Maryland calls for more help as the Public Service Commission now moves forward to review the deal. Public input will be included, now that the Baltimore Circuit Court has denied Constellation Energy’s appeal to not have the PSC regulate the deal. For more information on the issue, visit the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition website and also feel free to take action here.

Other than the reasons stated previously, the CSEC are telling the PSC to say no to the deal because: “EDF’s business culture and practices are unacceptable in Maryland. These include recent allegations of anti-competitive practices in Europe, an indictment of two senior EDF officials by a French court for activities involving spying on the environmental group Greenpeace France, and statements by EDF against clean wind power in the United Kingdom.”

With the inside look at nuclear energy in France from Mycle Schneider, an international consultant on energy and nuclear policy, we can now all be more informed, and decion-makers in Maryland and other places have more to think about regarding nuclear energy and policy.

Image credit: huntz via flickr under a Creative Commons license

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