Sarkozy to decide on fate of Areva chief within days
President Nicolas Sarkozy will decide within days about the leadership of French nuclear group Areva, a government source said Tuesday, amid mounting speculation that Anne Lauvergeon will keep the top job.
Lauvergeon, 51, has headed the majority state-owned Areva for 11 years, and reportedly has had stormy exchanges with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Henri Proglio, the head of EDF, France's main electricity supplier and so Areva's top customer.
However, there has been rising speculation that "Atomic Anne" may keep the job as rising anti-nuclear sentiment due to the reactor crisis in Japan makes it an inconvenient time to put someone inexperienced in charge.
Lauvergeon has been a vocal advocate of Areva's new-generation EPR reactors, which are expensive to build but which the company presents as being the safest in the world.
Areva is a major player in the world nuclear energy field, with its activities covering the whole process from the extraction of uranium to the disposal of nuclear waste.
On Tuesday, Business radio station BFM reported Lauvergeon's reappointment was nearly a done deal and that someone "compatible" with EDF's Proglio would be appointed as her deputy, citing sources close to Sarkozy's office.
The Elysee said no decisions had yet been taken and Industry Minister Eric Besson said he had heard nothing about reports that Lauvergeon would continue in her job, adding: "We have a little time, the position comes up in June."
"There will be a meeting with the president when the issue comes up and it is the president who will decide. The question does not arise today," Besson said.
However, a government source later told AFP that the meeting over Areva's leadership could take place within days and that Sarkozy has asked ministers to not fuel the dispute between Lauvergeon and Proglio.
Speculation was rife last year that Lauvergeon would be sacked due to the dispute.
According to the weekly Le Canard Enchaine, Sarkozy decided at the beginning of this year not to reappoint Lauvergeon and an internal search for her replacement was launched.
France relies on nuclear energy for nearly 80 percent of its electricity.
© 2011 AFP