Nuclear Policy Council
Nuclear energy’s competitiveness is confirmed against a background of enhanced safety and security.
Choosing nuclear energy carries an essential and permanent quid pro quo: absolute stringency with regard to nuclear safety and transparency.
On 3 January the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) presented the initial conclusions of its audit, requested by the Prime Minister in order to learn lessons from the Fukushima accident. The Council noted that the ASN believes all the French nuclear facilities audited demonstrate a sufficient level of safety to be able to continue operating. The ASN planned to issue, before the end of the first quarter, initial instructions aimed at strengthening the facilities’ resilience in the face of extreme situations. The ministers responsible for nuclear safety will issue a report in September on the implementation of the ASN’s instructions.
The publication in today’s Journal officiel of the general rules relating to basic nuclear facilities makes an important contribution to improving safety. It enables the regulations in force to be updated by incorporating the initial lessons of the Fukushima accident.
In order to strengthen our safety efforts, research and development will also progress in two key areas:
the National Research Agency (ANR) today issued a call for nuclear safety-related research projects, with funding of €50 million;
the CEA [Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission], EDF and Areva will create a research institute aimed at coordinating work on the reactors currently operating in our country, as well as on their fuel.
On 31 January the Cour des comptes [Audit Court] sent the Prime Minister its report on the costs of the nuclear power industry. The Council draws the following conclusions in particular from the report:
the French nuclear industry has no hidden costs;
uncertainties remain about certain long-term overheads, but they would increase the cost of nuclear electricity only marginally;
along with hydro-electricity, nuclear energy is the most competitive electricity source. The government emphasizes that these two zero-carbon-emissions energy sources are also available on demand;
the implementation of a major investment programme over the period 2010-2025, aimed at prolonging reactors’ working lives and continuously improving safety, does not call into question nuclear energy’s competitiveness.
The Council asks the government to implement the court’s recommendations. More specifically:
the government will update the assessment of the nuclear power industry’s costs in line with the forthcoming pluriannual investment plan (PPI);
the ministry responsible for energy will continue the audits begun regarding the estimated costs of dismantling [decommissioned plants];
the work under way to estimate the cost of storing waste will also be completed by the end of 2012;
regarding nuclear operators’ civil liability in the event of an accident, the government will next month present to the Council of Ministers a bill to increase the compensation ceiling in the event of an accident, without waiting for the international conventions applicable in this field to come into force.
The Council saw a synopsis of the report by the “Energies 2050” commission, set up by the Minister responsible for Energy to analyse the consequences of the various long-term energy scenarios. The Nuclear Policy Council:
confirms that the process leading to the validation of power stations’ working lives beyond 40 years must be continued;
confirms the continuation of the Penly EPR project, which – along with the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy – will leave room for decisions to be taken regarding the fleet’s safety while guaranteeing a secure electricity supply for our country;
asks the Minister responsible for Energy to draw up plans for the next period, up to 2030, in order to complete the pluriannual investment plan for electricity production, currently being implemented over a 10-year period. This new timeframe will allow the possible consequences and choices in the event of prolongation beyond 40 years to be clearly illustrated.
An action plan on the security of nuclear power stations, under preparation for several months, was signed by EDF and the Ministry of the Interior on 6 January 2012. On 16 December 2011, the Prime Minister also asked the ministries concerned to conduct a security audit of those nuclear facilities which underwent additional safety assessments in 2011. That audit is being coordinated by the Secretariat-General for Defence and National Security (SGDSN). It will have to be completed by 30 June 2012.
The vast majority of countries willing to use nuclear energy have confirmed their decision to use it.
At European level, 16 countries have confirmed their decision to use nuclear electricity: nuclear energy thus plays a full part in the European energy mix. The major emerging countries have also decided to pursue their nuclear programmes.
France will continue to promote the highest standards of nuclear safety, on the technological as well as organizational and human levels. France’s proposals to set up an international rapid intervention mechanism and an international network of crisis-management training centres are now priorities for the international community at G8, EU and IAEA levels in particular.
French industry is mobilized to deliver on France’s fleet of nuclear power stations and on the international opportunities.
EDF and Areva have finalized an agreement on Generation III 1000 MW reactors and an agreement relating to EDF’s long-term supply of uranium, aiding security of supply and the French fleet’s competitiveness. Following the signature in July 2011 of a technical and commercial agreement relating to the continued fine-tuning of the EPR, the improvement in maintenance and operating performance of the existing fleet of nuclear power stations, and fuel-cycle management, EDF and Areva now have a comprehensive, functioning strategic partnership.
The French bid regarding Generation III medium-power reactors has been strengthened, with a positive response from the ASN on the ATMEA reactor’s safety options. Moreover, the Minister responsible for Energy and the CEA Chairman will be going to China to specify the conditions of the partnership with China with regard to medium-power reactors, which will involve a tripartite agreement between EDF, Areva and CGNPC [China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group].
The Minister responsible for Energy has convened two meetings of the Nuclear Industry Strategy Committee. A special “subcontracting conditions” group was created within the committee in order to define a common set of basic employment conditions for all operators, which they will include in their bids, and to propose the necessary possible changes in regulation. The first proposals are expected for summer 2012.
Nuclear manufacturers and the strategic investment fund (FSI) will make up an investment fund of €150 million for nuclear component manufacturers and nuclear industry subcontractors./.
For more on French-American efforts toward a sustainable nuclear furture, please see this article on the February 2012 roundtables between French experts and members of U.S. Congress.