April - May 2001 Editorial
Safety authority: paper tiger or accessory to
The Durance fault is a zone of exceptional geological
instability. As early as March 1994, the IPSN (Institut de Protection
et de Sûreté Nucléaire - Institute for Nuclear Protection
and Safety) concluded that the seismic activity, 60 km northeast of
Marseilles, "has shown a significant increase since the end of December
1993". This is no surprise, since an important centennial earthquake
is expected - "massive damage; the most vulnerable housing destroyed;
almost all dwellings suffering considerable damage" - after the
ones that took place in 1812 and in 1913...
Cadarache, the largest French nuclear centre outside
the Parisian region - 450 buildings, 5000 employees - is situated only
a few kilometres away from the main fault. In 1995, following the IPSN
analysis, the safety authority asked COGEMA to prepare to shut down
the plutonium fuel (MOX) production plant "shortly after 2000".
It claimed the installation did not comply with the applicable anti-earthquake
regulations and doubtless constituted the greatest potential risk for
the site in the event of an earthquake.
Since then the plant has not ceased to increase
its production and now, six years later, it is still operating. The
safety authority "threatens" to shut down the plant "by court order"
at the end of 2002. COGEMA "proposes" to shut down the plant on one
condition: that it be authorised to increase the capacity of its other
MOX plant, MELOX, at Marcoule. "Blackmail", retorts the safety authority;
"not with us" adds the ministry for the Environment. As a result: COGEMA
makes an official application for authorisation to increase its production
Is it understandable that the French technocratic élite
should have decided to build a nuclear site of this scale in such a
place? Is it believable that the legal existence of the second largest
producer of commercial MOX in the world should be based on a simple
declaration as a research laboratory in 1964? Is it acceptable that
industry should impose its purely commercial logic and fly in the face
of all safety considerations?
In other words, what does the controlling State weigh
compared with the shareholder State?
to contents To
be continued (Dossier : Cadarache Special)
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