Nuclear Power: French Leaders Visit Congress
In a display of bilateral engagement on Capitol Hill in Washington, French policymakers and members of the Congressional French Caucus convened two roundtable discussions on February 7 to trade best practices in nuclear waste management.
The sessions brought together the Ambassador of France to the United States, François Delattre, and Marie-Claude Dupuis, CEO of the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA).
Organized by the French Caucus, the talks included the Caucus’s Senate co-chairs, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), as well as Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). The roundtable in the House of Representatives included the participation of House Caucus co-chairs, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME). In addition to several of the French Caucus’s 106 members, Congressional staff, Congressional Research Service, reporters and professionals from related industries also participated.
A world leader in nuclear waste management, the French representatives sought to explain how their country is engaged in the challenges of sustainability, safety and economics of nuclear waste as a part of broader civilian nuclear energy policy.
The French commitment to nuclear safety reflects the activity of several groups in the United States, including the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Such groups hope that these roundtables will build dialogue and ultimately result in a long-term plan to improve the quality of nuclear waste management in the United States. France fully supports initiatives like these.
In his introductory remarks, Ambassador Delattre said that he is "convinced that we have many things to learn from each other in this field. [...] The United States and France have the most important nuclear fleets in the world... People are asking for answers to the challenges of nuclear energy development. Underscoring the issue’s importance, he asserted that "we owe it to the people."
Ms. Dupuis has acted as the head of ANDRA since 2005. A mining engineer by training, she has worked on nuclear and environmental issues for much of her career. Prior to her current position, Ms. Dupuis worked as Director of the Industrial Environment Service, where she oversaw regulations of industrial and agricultural facilities at the national level. The following is a link to her statement.
ANDRA is the product of over 40 years of French nuclear practice, research and policy. It is housed in the Ministry of the Environment and Research, and operates independently from nuclear waste producers. ANDRA currently oversees four major waste disposal sites in France, in conjunction with the National Plan for Management of Radioactive Waste, and is involved in ongoing preparations for a permanent underground repository in eastern France. The National Plan provides a policy framework for the safe storage of nuclear waste classified within the industry-standard categories of low-, medium- and high-level radioactivity.
Following the roundtable, Senators Boozman and Landrieu had positive things to say about France’s work in nuclear waste management.
"We’ve struggled with the waste part of nuclear energy in our country, and we appreciate the French experts being with us today to give us some new ideas", said Sen. Boozman.
"We are very grateful for Ambassador Delattre and Madame Dupuis to share with us about France’s experience with nuclear power," said Sen. Landrieu. "We hope to continue this series of roundtables on nuclear power," she added.
About the Congressional French Caucus: Founded in 2003, the Congressional French Caucus is a bicameral, bipartisan congressional member organization, dedicated to promoting partnership and cooperation, enhancing U.S.-French relations in all fields and facilitating a better understanding of the essential relationship between our two nations. The French Caucus has been instrumental in providing opportunities for caucus members and staff to meet with visiting French delegations, as well as opportunities to travel to France to meet with French officials.
For a related article on the recent meeting of French and American political and academic leaders on higher education, please click here.