“The risk that the French nuclear industry faces a budgetary wall is real”

Tribune. Without saying whether we are for or against nuclear energy, it is clear that it is an integral part of the French energy mix. The choices in this area are crucial, as much for public finances as for energy security or sovereignty.

Each year, the French nuclear authorities present their annual activity reports to parliamentarians who are members of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST). Each year, the questions asked by parliamentarians who are members of this office follow one another and are similar. The answers too. Which is worrying to say the least. Reports still mixed, with improvements on the one hand, but concerns for the coming year on the other. The Nuclear Safety Authority has been warning for four years about the lack of personnel needed to carry out the work essential for the extension, maintenance and future dismantling of nuclear infrastructures.

It is difficult not to worry about the alerts on the level of safety of the vessels – which contain the reactor core – and the situation of certain reactors, which today undergo accelerated aging of the steels. And is the decision to extend all of the thirty-two reactors still in operation really wise, since we are not sure of being able to guarantee their safety in a long-term manner?

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While our nuclear power plants can produce electricity on a continuous basis, they present a major challenge: the management of highly radioactive waste. It seems that there is a delay on the question and a great lack of anticipation on the real volume of waste to be treated. The Astrid project aimed to better exploit radioactive materials while reducing the amount of nuclear waste. Its abandonment was recorded in 2019, by a press release from the Atomic Energy and Energies Commission. What about the fate of already recycled materials?

Undervalued costs

To date, the production of the National Radioactive Materials and Waste Management Plan (PNGMDR), whose parliamentary report covers its institutional assessment, is more than two years behind schedule. The government not only violated the law by postponing the date of its delivery, but de facto obstructs the work and the oversight role of Parliament over the government strategy on civilian nuclear power. Regarding the management of nuclear waste, only deep geological burial has been studied. Why deprive yourself of a second pilot site for surface storage, an alternative provided for by law, and above all, faced with such safety issues, why persist in wanting to put your waste in the same basket?

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