France aims to retain atomic energy leadership

5th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 5 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac announced on Thursday plans to build a prototype fourth-generation nuclear reactor, reinforcing France's determination to remain a world leader in atomic energy.

PARIS, Jan 5 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac announced on Thursday plans to build a prototype fourth-generation nuclear reactor, reinforcing France's determination to remain a world leader in atomic energy.

In a New Year address to business leaders and unions, Chirac said he had "decided to immediately launch work by the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) on a prototype fourth-generation reactor, to go into service in 2020".

He said that "we will join forces with the industrial or international partners who wish to commit" to the project.

Chirac said that France needed to "stay ahead in nuclear energy", as he outlined elements of the country's long-term energy strategy.

He stressed that France was a key partner in both the third-generation EPR reactor and in ITER, an international experimental fusion reactor to be based in southern France.

One French industrialist indicated a link between the statement and disruption last weekend to gas supplies from Russia to several European countries over a pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

The European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR), a Franco-German project being developed in northern France, is set to be operational by 2012.

But Chirac emphasised that the seven-country International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) was an experimental, long-term project, and that France also needed to focus on meeting its medium-term energy needs.

"What is at stake (through the ITER project) is the ability to harness the energy of the sun by the end of the century," he said.

"Until then, we need to take new initiatives," Chirac said, adding that the fourth generation of reactors, "those of the 2030s and 2040s, will produce less waste and make better use of resources."

Most reactors currently in service in the world are generally referred to as second- or third-generation reactors.

France is one of 10 countries in the Generation IV International Forum, which was launched four years ago following a US initiative and is conducting research into new types of nuclear reactor.

There are currently six design models for the reactors of the future, which aim to improve safety and minimise waste and cut construction and operating costs.

Chirac did not specify which type of reactor, using different cooling methods ranging from gas to sodium or lead, France would seek to develop.

Business leaders in the French energy sector welcomed the announcement, saying they were mobilised to help develop the next generation of reactors.

At Areva, the world's largest civilian nuclear-power group, chief executive Anne Lauvergeon said that Chirac's announcement "is absolutely in line with our own plans".

The chairman of the utilities group Suez, Gérard Mestrallet, said he was "glad to see France making the most of its assets".

He said that "for Europe, nuclear energy is a response to the gas crisis", drawing a link with the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute which has fuelled debate about energy dependency.

Pierre Gadonneix, the chairman of Electricité de France which manages 58 nuclear power plants across the country, also welcomed the news.

"France's nuclear programme has earned the respect and admiration of the United States and the entire world," he said.

EDF, which produces 74 percent of its electricity from nuclear power stations, generates about a quarter of all Europe's electricity.

A number of countries in Europe have rejected nuclear energy or have backed away from their own nuclear generation.

The president also pledged to improve transparency through the creation of an independent nuclear safety agency and the adoption by parliament this year of a new law on the storage of radioactive waste.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article