What the nuclear industry gives with one hand, it takes with the other, it seems. Take the news this morning that French EDF and GDF Suez are going toe-to-toe on who gets to build France’s freshly announced second European Pressurised Reactor (EPR).
The (not so) innocent bystander in this brawl looks to be the British power industry which, short of its own nuclear know-how was looking to French boffins to launch the UK nuclear ‘renaissance’ and build Britain’s very own EPR.
(The use of the word ‘renaissance’ is a very cheeky bit of spin, by the way. The word evokes a golden age in world history that heralded exploration and endeavour rather than, in the instance of nuclear power, a retreat to reactionary viewpoints. The artists of the true Renaissance were on a quest for knowledge. The architects of the nuclear renaissance want you to be ignorant.)
British nuclear insiders are worried that state-owned EDF’s bid to build Nicolas Sarkozy’s new baby will torpedo the deal of EDF buying the much maligned and over-subsidised British Energy, the UK’s major nuclear power lemon that we mentioned yesterday. But take a look at how EDF’s construction of France’s first EPR at Flamville is going...
In April this year, inspections by the French nuclear safety agency found a quarter of the welding in the reactor’s steel liner (the rather important protective shell of the reactor) was substandard. Cracks were also already appearing in the concrete base which resulted in the French Nuclear Agency halting the construction work.
EDF claim they are working it put this right but we wonder if the philosophy of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ is a particularly sensible or safe one in the construction of nuclear reactors. And yet countries are queuing up all around the world to build EPRs – untried, untested and to the detriment of cleaner more sustainable alternatives.
It is just – just – possible that one day a nuclear reactor will be built on time, on budget and without the terrifying defects that emerge with equally terrifying regularity. It’s looking a long, long way off - definitely too late to halve our emissions by 2050, too late to keep global warming below two degrees, and too late stop the drastic effects of climate change.