Phenix Court Case Back on Lobby Track?
WISE-Paris, September 1998
[Posted September 1998]
The Phenix case turns sour. In Plutonium Investigation n°8
we had given some information concerning the opposition to the operation
of the Phenix fast-breeder reactor (FBR) at Marcoule, France. At the
end of May 1998, Forum Plutonium has made three "requests" against the
licensing of the reactor, which was issued by the French Nuclear Safety
Authority DSIN. The requests concern 1) the formal cancellation of the
license, 2) a delay to the application of the license and 3) a suspension
of the license. Different decisions have already been made by administrative
courts concerning the complaints; none has been positive to the case.
As we already reported, on 22 June 1998 the local Court of Montpellier
decided that it was not competent on the matter itself and transmitted
the dossier to the highest French administrative court (the Conseil
At the same time, both the CEA, which operates the
reactor, and the Secretary of State for Industry, which is the member
of the Government who is responsible for the plant, had given their
comments concerning the Forum Plutonium's complaints to the Montpellier
court. Respecting the procedures, the Forum Plutonium has replied to
these comments. The soundness of the original complaints did not seem
Since then, two new decisions have been made. On
1 July 1998, the President of the "Contentious" section of the State
Conseil d'Etat decided that the Paris Administrative Court was competent
for the judgement concerning the three complaints. This decision was
analysed by the Forum Plutonium as being a centralisation from a local
court to a court which can be influenced by the Paris-based Government.
The Forum Plutonium's lawyer states that the competent court should
be the local court which is responsible for the region in which the
installation is located.
The second decision, which was taken by the Paris
Administrative Court on 23 July 1998, simply stated that the two complaints
which concern the delay to the execution of the plant's license and
the suspension of the license are pointless. Stating that since "the
installation has already started operation according to the decision
which is attacked", the "attacked decision" (i.e. the licensing) must
be considered as entirely executed at the date of the Court's decision.
Therefore the complaint concerning the "delay to the decision" is pointless.
Following this, in an astounding decision, considering
that any decision concerning the suspension of licensing does not have
any effect after a decision has been made concerning the delay to the
execution of the licensing, the Administrative Court states that the
complaint concerning the suspension of the licensing would also be pointless.
The Forum Plutonium has already reacted to this
double decision by the Paris Administrative Court. In an appeal to the
decision which was sent to the Administrative Court of Appeal at the
beginning of August, the Forum Plutonium states that the Safety Authorities'
license, which is valid until 2004, is not entirely executed. Furthermore,
the Administrative Court is not competent to deciding that the complaints
are pointless since the points are not incontestable and since the Court
has not organised a hearing nor requested the opinion of the Forum Plutonium.
Note that the two first complaints (requetes) which were brushed aside
by the Administrative Court of Paris and which concern delaying and
suspending the execution of the licensing are complaints which are meant
to go through a quick judicial procedure. It is therefore plausible
that the Administrative Court of Appeal could make its decision shortly.
The remaining complaint concerns the formal cancellation
of the license. There is no regulatory timing for this complaint to
be dealt with by the Administrative Court. It would however be logical
that concerning a dangerous installation this court also make its decision
The current situation of the whole dossier suggests
that while a confidential analysis for the Governement had shown the
Forum Plutonium's legal basis for the complaints to be sound (Cf. Plutonium
Investigation n°8 ), the administrative courts
seem to be under pressure and not respecting the usual procedures. It
looks as if the Government wants Phenix to be operated. Or has the deal
been that the shut-down of Superphenix would be blocked in the pipeline
as long as Phenix did not get the go-ahead?
Contact: Forum Plutonium, Jean-Pierre Morichaud
(secretary), Les Oliviers, F-26110 Venterol, Tel: +33 (0)4 7527 9767
- Fax: +33 (0)4 7527 9846