In the immediate aftermath of Japan’s catastrophic earthquake and the unfolding disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, instead of opting for a period quiet reflection the nuclear industry saw the opportunity to make a sales pitch.

Foremost among them was Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of France’s AREVA, one of the world’s largest nuclear reactor designers and builders. With the details of what was happening at Fukushima still to emerge, Ms Lauvergeon attempted to grab a little more market share for
her company

Areva SA Chief Executive Officer Anne Lauvergeon said explosions at a Japanese atomic power site in the wake of an earthquake last week underscore her strategy to offer more complex reactors that promise superior safety. “Low-cost reactors aren’t the future,” Lauvergeon said on France 2 television station yesterday.

So we need more complex reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster? Who sells them? Why, AREVA, of course! It’s selling the so-called Generation III European Pressurised Reactor (EPR). The thing is, as we’ve pointed out on many occasions, building AREVA’s more complex reactors isn’t going too well. The two EPRs being built in Europe – at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France – have been plagued with thousands of construction defects, safety failures and concerns about the design of the reactor’s digital control and safety systems. The construction of the Olkiluoto EPR is currently four years behind schedule and 2.7 billion euros over budget (the original budget was 3 billion euros). The Flamanville EPR is following close behind, at least 1 billion euros over budget and two years late.

Also, if ‘low-cost reactors aren’t the future’ why was AREVA talking earlier this year about continuing to try and sell them? ‘Safety standards in the US and Europe would not allow a second-generation reactor to be built,’ said a senior AREVA executive. So they’re looking to sell them to developing nations with less stringent safety standards. It looks like they’re not included in AREVA’s future. There’s a double standard in AREVA’s safety standards.

(Further reading: Our EPR factsheet, our nuclear briefings, and the Energy Revolution which shows how we can build a future without nuclear power.)