France has entered a process of isolation on the
question of plutonium, choosing a path, MOX, that is increasingly discredited.
Direct disposal of spent fuels is the method favored by most nuclear
operators in the world, including the present customers of COGEMA. It
is unlikely, indeed impossible, that significant foreign contracts will
be signed after the fulfillment of those in process:
-Belgium has officially excluded reprocessing in the future.
-The Netherlands will have no reactor in operation as of 2004.
-The German government has announced the end of shipments to reprocessing
factories for 2005 at the latest.
-The Swiss government anticipates the prohibition of reprocessing.
-The Japanese utilities are the only ones to have let it be known
that they would sign a new contract in the spring of 2001. But even
if the contract is concluded, the quantity would be limited to 600
tons total, or the equivalent of four and one-half months of work
for La Hague.
In these conditions, the pressure on EDF and on the
government is increasing. Contrary to some nuclear construction companies
such as Framatome only half of whose business is now in nuclear, COGEMA
has not (yet) developed a diversification strategy, even at least within
the nuclear sector. Today, EDF and the French state are called to save
COGEMA. But at what price?
Economically unfavorable compared with uranium oxide
fuel, problematical in terms of safety and proliferation, plutonium
has seen its value revised downward for some years, reaching zero or
negative levels even in EDFs accounting. In an internal document
at the end of August 2000, EDFs assessment is quite clear: "The
reprocessing/recycling option reveals to be extremely costly".
What a revelation.
be continued (Plut'Info: Figures,
News, Words of
the month, Worth reading)