Take a look at this video. In it, Olivier Loubiere, Corporate Business Ethics Advisor of French nuclear conglomerate AREVA (it mines uranium, designs and builds reactors, and attempts – badly - to deal with nuclear waste), tells us how the company is to ‘self-regulate’ and adopt ‘a set of voluntary best practices’.
The nuclear industry is said to be one of the most tightly regulated industries in the world. The problem is, when you see what the nuclear industry gets up to under the supposedly watchful eye of its government watchdogs – leaks, accidents, cover-ups, and attempts to influence public opinion by subterfuge – one wonders what it might do under so-called self-regulation.
The problem is this: what the nuclear industry gets up to in the public eye is bad enough. What it does away from the public gaze can be even worse.
Has AREVA’s Corporate Business Ethics Advisor visited Niger where villages are contaminated by the nearby uranium mines operated by his company? Despite the country supplying France with around 30% of the uranium needed to run French reactors, Niger is stuck at the bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Index which measures worldwide levels of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living. AREVA has been operating in Niger for 40 years - are we seeing ethics or exploitation here?
Talking of exploitation, has Mr Loubiere visited Olkiluoto in Finland where AREVA is building a new nuclear reactor and the migrant workers there are being paid slave wages? Is that ‘best practice’? He has been AREVA’s Corporate Business Ethics Advisor for quite a few years. So where was he in 2009 when the company attempted to block the screening of a documentary in France that detailed the contamination and lack of security at the country’s exhausted uranium mines? Is that ethical? Don’t the French people have a right to know?
Will self-regulation address these issues? We very much doubt it. There is little enough proper official regulation as it is and that has failed to prevent the scandals mentioned above. So why expect the nuclear industry to clean up its own messes voluntarily? What’s needed instead is far tighter and more accountable official nuclear regulation without the kinds of conflicts of interest we see at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In the video above, Mr Loubiere talks of an ‘ethical approach’. We’re struggling to see the ethics in AREVA’s approach to nuclear power. With the nuclear industry only talk is cheap. Everything else is hugely expensive and it’s the people, not AREVA, who end up paying the bill. We’ll judge Olivier Loubiere and AREVA by their deeds not their words.