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Nuclear safety/Renewable Energy

Published on August 31, 2011
Speech by François Fillon, Prime Minister (excerpts)

Saint-Vulbas, August 29, 2011

(…)

NUCLEAR SAFETY

In France, all nuclear power stations operate with equipment that is constantly improved and regularly overhauled.

It’s an inviolable commitment of the public authorities and of my government in particular to guarantee in this way, through a continuous and stringent process, the quality and safety of our nuclear power network. We assist and support its development.

Furthermore, we’ve decided, in the framework of the future investment programme, to fund the future – and particularly fourth-generation – nuclear programme to the tune of €1 billion.

In this field – and we can be proud of it – our country still has a technological lead and a mastery that are internationally recognized.

We enjoy the solid expertise of top-class companies like EDF and AREVA, which can themselves rely on the scientific skills of the Atomic Energy Commission. Fifty years ago, France resolutely chose civilian nuclear energy. It was a strategic choice, which has proven to be sound but which also demands a strong sense of responsibility. (…)

At international level, France has also taken initiatives to ensure that the nuclear safety requirements incumbent upon states are shared by the greatest number. Under France’s impetus, the G8 countries committed themselves to promoting the highest safety standards, establishing stress tests for existing nuclear facilities and conducting periodic assessments of facilities’ safety. On 7 June, we hosted in France a seminar of the Nuclear Energy Agency, bringing together ministers from 33 countries. That seminar made it possible to develop some consensus which incorporates many of the French proposals.

But we want cooperation to go even further than the consensus stage we’ve reached. I also had an opportunity to say so in Kiev in April: the international community must set up a rapid intervention mechanism, making experts and specialized equipment available in order to respond, if the need arises, to an urgent call from a country that has suffered a nuclear accident.

Since April, France has been conveying this message continuously, at every opportunity. It’s an initiative that can only work if everyone is spurred into action. And I want to tell you that France is determined to secure an agreement in principle from as many countries as possible. We’re also convinced that the creation of a crisis management training centre for nuclear operators and government authorities will be an effective base for organizing the best response to a nuclear accident. We want others to share this conviction too.

And because there’s currently no common body of knowledge or methodology for these emergency responses, we want to create one, disseminate it and promote the sharing of good practice. (…)
The discussions we’re having in France can act as a crucible for an international initiative to create a crisis training centre, which would enable us to pool all our knowledge and stimulate work on establishing a rapid intervention mechanism. The effectiveness of such mechanisms will depend on strict consistency between the actions of operators and the authorities when managing crises. I hope these proposals can be developed in the action plan that the IAEA is going to explain in detail in the coming weeks. Under its leadership, we’ll have to build a unique reference framework for governance and for interoperable standards and methods. (…)
While the Fukushima accident reminds us that nuclear energy entails potential risks, it mustn’t blind us to its considerable advantages. I strongly object to the Manichaean approach many people would like to force us into. There is a responsible path between abandoning nuclear energy and totally relying on it! France needs nuclear power. But I’m also aware we need to develop renewable energy.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

In 2007, we chose to diversify our energy mix. We began a shift with the Grenelle de l’Environnement (1), and it’s going to continue, in line with the European commitments France has made. By 2020, as much as 23% of our energy consumption will have to come from renewable sources, and we’re in the process of creating the means to do this.

These are sectors which have industrial potential but need major investment in R&D. We’re working to build industries that will ultimately have to become exporters and provide added value to the French economy.

Our R&D effort on renewable energy and technology to improve energy efficiency, on carbon capture and storage and on hydrogen puts our commitment onto an equal footing with our effort on nuclear energy. Within programmes devoted to future investment, €1.35 billion is devoted to renewable energy and zero-emission production processes. Just as we put our money on nuclear energy in the 1970s, so today we’re putting our money on this key sector of the future.

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are the thoughts I wanted to share with you. The post-Fukushima period creates a new framework for us, in which we’ll continue to shoulder all our responsibilities. Our choice today and in the future is to invest heavily in safety: it’s the number one priority. And the French people must know that the public authorities’ vigilance, our stringency and transparency on these subjects are absolute. They must also know that the teams in charge of safety at nuclear facilities are of a very high calibre and have a very great sense of responsibility./.

(1) conference bringing together the government, local authorities, trade unions, business and voluntary sectors to draw up concrete measures to tackle environmental issues

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