France - Plutonium Investigationn°19

November 2000                                    Editorial

The end of a myth

   Summer is the high season for politics in France. Nothing else is happening, and the stage is free. A surprising number of delicate political decisions are made in the seventh and eighth months of the year. It is not yet clear into which category the report from the Charpin-Dessus-Pellat mission, handed to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin at the end of July 2000, will fall: to be passed on, or to be buried. The diverse backgrounds of these "three musketeers", respectively Commissioner for planning, Director of the Ecodev program at the CNRS, and High Commissioner for Atomic Energy, prompted the Minister for Environment to say, "this is probably the first equitable report in the history of nuclear energy in France". Perhaps. But it still has to be read.

   The main 250-page volume is entitled "Étude économique prospective de la filière électrique nucléaire" (forecast economic study for nuclear energy) and the report is published with three annexes dedicated to the analysis of the current reactor generation and the prospective for nuclear and non-nuclear technologies. Those who do read it will find many data and a few truths which it is not always easy to express (in France). For example, the additional cost for the plutonium sector is around 164 billion Francs over the life of the nuclear energy installed base.

   Since the appearance of Investigation Plutonium, exactly three years ago, the amount of plutonium stored in France has risen by 13 tonnes to reach 78 tonnes, of which around 41 tonnes are of French origin. Plutonium is extracted at a very high price and no electricity company in the world would accept to take it on for free (see Plut'Info). The French stockpile corresponds more or less to the amount of plutonium separated in the UP2-800 plant in La Hague since it came into service. The value of plutonium has now reached negative levels. The obvious has to be faced. This is the end of a myth, but who will take the consequences?

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Figures of the month: A still rising trend
News: Electricity companies refuse to use Russian plutonium
Words of the month
Worth reading: "Economic forecast for nuclear power", by Jean-Michel Charpin, Benjamin Dessus, René Pellat. Report for France's Prime Minister. September 2000, Paris. 252 pages.
Who's who? in France