Electricity companies refuse to use Russian
Electricity companies do not want Russian military
plutonium, made available under the Russia-US agreement. This
was the view that emerged from the Plutonium 2000 Conference,
held in Brussels on 9-11 October 2000. In reply to an informal
question on importation of Russian MOX for French reactors, EDF
replied that "we can't take foreign plutonium, we have problems
recycling our own." There were similar reactions from other
European and Japanese nuclear utilities: "If it was less expensive."
(Bayernwerk, Germany). "If it made economic sense..."
(NOK, Switzerland) and, more explicitly, "We have no such
project" (TEPCO, Japan). Where the manufacturers/builders
are concerned, old projects are being brought out of mothballs:
from the high-temperature reactor (HTR) from Framatome to feedback
on Russian fast reactors (FBR), via fuels with inert matrix, there
is general agreement that, in the future, plutonium will be burned
more efficiently. With efficiency in mind, the German and Swiss
electricity companies are only envisaging better use of MOX by
increasing burn-up. On the one hand, the electricity companies
are increasingly pre-occupied by questions of competitiveness,
as indicated by Bernard Estève, former Director of EDF's
Fuels Department, who declared, in April 2000, that there was
no market for plutonium and that, even if there was, the plutonium
value would be negative. On the other hand, there is the reprocessing
industry which, seeing the end of its contracts coming on apace,
is attempting to mesmerize the electricity companies, as witnessed
by COGEMA's Communications Director endlessly repeating that,
"plutonium is a sheep in wolf's clothing".
Words of the month
"As far as I am concerned, reprocessing
is certainly doomed in the mid-term, and maybe even in the short-term"
Dominique Voynet, France's Minister for Spatial
Planning and Environment, Les Echos, 31 October 2000.
"One may regret the fact the report
does not examine the hypothesis of a stop to reprocessing in 2002;
sooner or later, it will be necessary to talk about that. (...)
Unquestioned recourse to nuclear energy is now part of past illusions."
Roland Lagarde, Technical adviser to the French
Minister of Spatial Planning and Environment, Vert-Contact,
n°579, 14-20 October 2000.
"In terms of cumulative cost, the "stopping
of reprocessing in 2010" scenarios compared to the "28
units using MOX" scenarios represent a saving of between
28 and 39 billion French Francs depending on the hypothesis adopted
for the operating life of the installed nuclear power plants."
J.M. Charpin, B. Dessus, R. Pellat, Étude
économique prospective de la filière électrique
nucléaire, Report for the French Prime Minister, September
"The results of this report are in
line with current thinking at EDF the reprocessing/recycling
option is extremely costly"
Internal EDF memo on the Charpin/Dessus/Pellat
Report, August 2000.
"Recycling of plutonium in light-water
reactors is an economic aberration. Furthermore, temporary then
final storage of irradiated fuels from light-water reactors is
not only safer, it is less expensive than reprocessing.
Jean-Louis.Fensch, CEA Engineer, Report to
the French Nuclear Safety Council, October 1982.