The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

In France, nuclear power has lost its glow

thumbs-downflag-franceFrance Loses Enthusiasm for Nuclear Power, Scientific American,  Nuclear’s share of electricty will drop from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025 due to loss of know-how and requirements for more renewable sources By Umair Irfan and ClimateWire | June 29, 2015“……..

A ‘once formidable institution’ declines….nuclear plants, by their nature, are big bets and take years to build. Laponche explained that the French nuclear industry anticipated 1,000 TWh of demand, but domestic needs have yet to top 600 TWh, leaving an oversupply. With the economic downturn and increasing energy efficiency, French electricity demand has remained level or declined in some instances.

Now, some of France’s reactors are showing wrinkles—France’s oldest reactor, Fessenheim 1, started operations in 1977—and officials need to decide whether to invest in costly safety upgrades to keep them operating or to decommission them, another expensive prospect that leaves open the possibility that fossil fuels may rise to meet the shortfall.

New reactors also are struggling. Areva’s third-generation nuclear reactor, EPR, is now under construction at four sites: two in China, one in France and one in Finland. All four are behind schedule, and the French and Finnish reactors have seen their costs more than double, suffering from quality control and management problems.

“The cost of construction of new nuclear is extraordinarily expensive,” said Antony Frogatt, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank. He observed that there are ways to extend the lives of existing reactors, but upgrades get progressively more expensive, and certain components, like reactor pressure vessels, cannot be replaced, so renewed operating licenses are only prolonging the inevitable.

And while France has reduced nuclear waste, it hasn’t eliminated the need to dispose of it. No country with nuclear power has a viable underground repository for waste, and proposed sites in France face public opposition, despite more widespread support for nuclear power.

On the other hand, France is the second largest renewable energy producer and consumer in Europe. Wavering solar and wind power don’t play well with baseload nuclear plants that prefer to run at full blast, so the French must find a way to cope with this imbalance if they are to meet the European Union’s directive to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2020…….

To sum up, it’s a shrinking client base [for nuclear power] and a competitive market,” said Mycle Schneider, an independent international energy consultant. “The financial and economic situation is devastatingly bad.”

The New York Times reported that Areva hasn’t been profitable since 2010, accrued €4.8 billion in losses in 2014 and may lay off up to 6,000 workers. EDF may take over parts of Areva’s business…….

July 1, 2015 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

AREVA to sell its U.S. nuclear radiation measurement business

Areva puts U.S. nuclear radiation business Canberra up for sale PARIS, JUNE 29 French state-owned nuclear group Areva has begun the sale process for the planned disposal of its U.S. nuclear radiation measurement business Canberra, it said in a statement on Monday.

The sale of Canberra is part of a revamp of loss-making Areva, with utility EDF poised to buy its nuclear reactor business. (Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by David Goodman)

July 1, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

France keen to save AREVA, by selling nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia

Hollande-salesFrance plans new Saudi nuclear reactors, Sky News 25 June 2015 France has confirmed it is looking into building two nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, as part of 12 billion euro ($A17.31 billion) worth of deals struck between the nations.

Under one of the agreements Airbus will sell 23 H-145 multipurpose helicopters to Saudi Arabia for 500 million euros as well as launch a feasibility study into building the reactors, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday……..

The study for two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) – which France considers the safest and most advanced in the world – takes on added significance given the current efforts by Saudi Arabia’s rival, Iran, to develop its own nuclear capabilities.

In addition to the study, France will sign an agreement to train the Saudis on nuclear safety and the treatment of nuclear waste……

France has been reinforcing links with the conservative kingdom despite persistent criticism of its human rights record,……


June 26, 2015 Posted by | France, marketing, Saudi Arabia | 2 Comments

Japan – no idea what to do with its nuclear trash now stored in France



they should just stop making radioactive trash

Japan faces dilemma over 16 tonnes of plutonium stored in France Reuters | 18 June, 2015 

Still dealing with the huge clean up after the Fukushima crisis and debating its future use of atomic energy, Japan now faces another nuclear conundrum – what to do with 16 tonnes of its plutonium sitting in France after being reprocessed there. The question will be among the issues that come under the spotlight on Thursday and Friday as nuclear proliferation experts meet with legislators and government officials in Tokyo.

With its reactor fleet shut down in the wake of Fukushima, Japan is unable to take fuel made from the plutonium at the moment and could be forced to find other countries to use it.

The matter has taken on greater urgency as Areva, the French nuclear company that owns the La Hague reprocessing facility holding the plutonium in western Normandy, faces billions of dollars of losses.

“In this whole mess (at Areva) we have a huge amount of Japanese plutonium,” said Mycle Schneider, an independent energy consultant, adding Japan would need to resolve the problem sooner rather than later.

An Areva spokesman said the company had long-standing contracts with Japanese utilities to take nuclear fuel made from the plutonium. Frank von Hippel, one of the founders of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), a group of arms-control and proliferation experts, will discuss Japan’s stock of plutonium in France when he meets with Japanese legislators, according to a draft of a presentation he will give that has been seen by Reuters.

The group argues the world’s growing inventory of plutonium from civilian use is a “clear and present danger” as it could be used in so-called dirty bombs. apanese government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reprocessing--NOSchneider, who is a contributor to a soon to be released IPFM report on plutonium separation in nuclear power programmes, said the alternative to taking back the plutonium would be to pay other countries to use it in their reactors.

He said that France would be one option, but that the cost would likely be high, especially as that country has its own stockpile to deplete. He did not give an exact cost.

“Giving its plutonium away and paying for it would expose the Japanese to the reality of plutonium as a liability rather than an asset,” said Schneider.

A precedent for that kind of deal could be set in Britain, where the government has offered to take ownership of 20 tonnes of Japanese plutonium stored at the Sellafield processing plant, according to the IPFM.

“This is a kind of win-win deal,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, who will join Von Hippel in meeting with legislators on Thursday.

“The British side would make money and the Japanese would lose less,” said Suzuki.

June 20, 2015 Posted by | France, Japan, wastes | 1 Comment

AREVA and EDF need to clean up their organisational mess ASAP – says France’s nuclear watchdog

exclamation-areva-medusa1French nuclear watchdog urges quick resolution of Areva rescue plan, Reuters, PARIS | BY MICHEL ROSE AND BENJAMIN MALLET 12 June 15 Areva’s (AREVA.PA) financial situation is worrying, the head of France’s ASN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday, urging the loss-making nuclear company and utility EDF (EDF.PA) to wrap up a rescue plan for Areva as soon as possible.

The French government last week approved EDF’s plan to take a majority stake in Areva’s nuclear reactor business and gave the two state-owned companies a month to do a deal.

“Areva’s current financial situation, it could get better, (it) can be considered as preoccupying in terms of safety,” ASN Director Pierre-Franck Chevet told Reuters in an interview.

“That’s why we have formally asked to hear them … to ask what kind of organisation they are putting in place to fulfils the commitments they have made in terms of safety for the incoming period,” he added, noting a meeting was scheduled by the end of June.

An EDF spokeswoman declined to comment, while an Areva spokeswoman pointed to comments made by Areva Chairman Philippe Varin on Wednesday, that safety remained an absolute priority.

ASN, an independent regulatory authority, last year imposed on Areva a requirement to recondition radioactive waste stored at its La Hague facility in northern France, which could cost several billion euros and which must be provisioned for, Chevet said.

However the watchdog has no power on the merger per se and its only remit is safety. It can shut down a nuclear plant if it sees a safety issue or fine companies for any transgressions……..

June 13, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics, safety | Leave a comment

Falling electricity prices are hitting France’s nuclear corporation EDF

radiation-sign-sadflag-franceEDF Nuclear Power Struggles to Compete With Falling Market Price, Bloomberg Business,  by Tara Patel June 10, 2015 Electricite de France SA’s sale of atomic power to competitors for the second half of the year has sunk to a fraction of what it was in 2014, signaling nuclear energy may be losing competitiveness.

The state-controlled utility sold a quarter of the volume, or 4 terawatt-hours, to rivals, according to energy regulator Commission de Regulation de l’Energie. The 12.3 terawatt-hours sold for the first half was also less than half the 34.6 terawatt-hours for the second half of 2014.

The drop signals obstacles ahead for Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy, who is pushing for higher power prices to help pay for tens of billions of euros of maintenance and safety upgrades on EDF’s aging fleet of French nuclear reactors, which account for three-quarters of the country’s electricity production.

 The utility, the world’s biggest nuclear operator, is required to offer about a quarter of its annual French atomic output to rivals under a regulated system known as Arenh that’s aimed at increasing competition on the domestic market. They can buy it at the current price of 42 euros ($47.44) a megawatt-hour or turn to the market where prices are lower.

“There is an imbalance between nuclear generation costs and wholesale power market prices,” said Louis Boujard, a utilities analyst at Oddo Securities in Paris. “Nuclear energy is less competitive than it was in the past.”Market Price

French electricity is bought and sold in the market on a year-ahead basis for 38.15 euros, or 9.2 percent below the Arenh price, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. The contract has dropped 4.6 percent since January and is trading at its lowest level for the time of year since at least 2007 when Bloomberg began tracking the data.

The government is reviewing how it calculates the rates charged for Arenh nuclear power. While EDF argues that it needs to increase the rate to better reflect the cost of generation, other power distributors such as Direct Energie and industrial consumers want a reduction. In the meantime, they are shunning the volumes in favor of cheaper power on the market………

June 13, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

Risk of nuclear meltdown due to faulty valves in new-generation EPR reactor

pressure vessel olkiluotoFaulty valves in new-generation EPR nuclear reactor pose meltdown risk, inspectors warn
Flamanville third-generation EPR nuclear reactor – the same model Britain plans to use for two new plants at Hinkley Point – has multiple faults in crucial safety valves, inspectors warn
 By , Paris 09 Jun 2015 Nuclear safety inspectors have found crucial faults in the cooling system of France’s flagship new-generation nuclear power plant on the Channel coast, exposing it to the risk of meltdown.

The third-generation European Pressurised Reactor currently under construction in Flamanville is the same model that Britain plans to use for two new plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

State-controlled nuclear giant Areva is responsible for the design and construction.

France’s nuclear safety watchdog found “multiple” malfunctioning valves in the Flamanville EPR that could cause its meltdown, in a similar scenario to the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US.

The inspectors listed the faults in a damning presentation obtained by Mediapart, the investigative French website. This is the latest setback for what is supposed to be France’s atomic energy showcase abroad, following the revelation last month that its steel reactor vessel has “very serious anomalies” that raise the risk of it cracking. The vessel houses the plant’s nuclear fuel and confines its radioactivity. Continue reading

June 10, 2015 Posted by | France, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Meltdown in France’s nuclear dream – taxpayers to cop the costs

External factors may have precipitated the crash of Areva, but the cause is internal. Areva and the French nuclear industry is controlled by engineers and state officials and the market comes as an afterthought.

The problems of time and cost overruns in China, Finland and now in France at Flamanville are self-made and part of the “esprit de corps” arrogant attitude of the organisation.

Now, 13 years later, the problem needs to be addressed and risks costing billion of euros and thousands of jobs

plants-downFrance’s Nuclear Industry Dream Faces Melt-Down At Expense Of State Coffers, Tax Payers Forbes, Marcel Michelson, 3 June 15 France has decided to rescue its Areva nuclear energy company once again, this time by combining the nuclear power station creation business with state-controlled power operator EDF , its biggest client.

Only a few years back, in 2010, Areva’s finances had been restored by the forced sale of its transport and transmission activities to industrial group Alstom and electrical engineer Schneider . Meanwhile, GE of the United States controls the Alstom power activities as part of its own rescue recapitalisation.

The rest of Areva includes uranium mines, nuclear waste recycling, transport, storage and some alternative energy activities.

For all intents and purposes, Areva is dead. Continue reading

June 6, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

France pins its nuclear hopes on exporting reactors

Hollande-salesRescued Areva faces uncertain future as nuclear fuel group By Geert De Clercq (Reuters) 5 June 15 – France‘s Areva faces an uncertain future as a specialised nuclear fuel supplier, as a state rescue moves its core nuclear reactor activities to its utility customer EDF. Shares in the state-owned firm briefly rose almost 6 percent on Thursday after the government said late on Wednesday it would recapitalise Areva and approved EDF’s plan to take over Areva’s reactor unit.

The government plan unwinds Areva’s much-vaunted model of an integrated nuclear group that mines and enriches uranium, produces nuclear fuel, builds reactors and recycles spent fuel. Created fifteen years ago from the nuclear fuel group Cogema and reactor builder Framatome, Areva had ambitions to sell as many as 16 of its massive EPR reactors to energy-hungry developing countries.

But it has not sold a reactor since 2007 and the four it did sell have been plagued by delays and cost overruns. More than two decades after it was designed, not a single EPR is in operation today.

Still, the French government said it hopes an EDF-led nuclear industry could win the export contracts that have proved so elusive for Areva.”The French camp must work together abroad,” Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told France Info radio on Thursday. Continue reading

June 6, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

France’s AREVA-EDF nuclear merger – easier said than done

plants-downFrance Grapples With a Knotty Nuclear Problem By AMBROISE ECORCHEVILLE 


The reconstitution of France’s nuclear industry is officially underway. Under orders from President François Hollande, atomic-power utility  Electricité de France ‘sEDF.FR -0.45% is going to invest in the nuclear-reactor business of Areva to help refinance the troubled engineering group. The two state-controlled companies have a month to clinch a comprehensive deal.

That’s going to be easier said than done.

Leaving aside the questions about the future of nuclear energy in a world of fast-changing energy markets and geopolitical uncertainty, the interests of the French state, EDF and Areva are far from convergent.

Take Areva’s finances. The group, whose operations run from uranium mining to treating nuclear waste, needs a cash injection of €6 billion ($6.6 billion) to €8 billion. EDF, according to people familiar with the matter, has offered to invest €2 billion in Areva’s reactors unit. Some analysts question the willingness of the government to make up the difference. They note France’s stretched public finances and long-term risks associated with Areva’s unfinished, much-delayed, and over-budget nuclear reactor projects in Finland and France.

The future commercial ties between EDF and Areva also leave unanswered questions. The government wants to reset them. EDF’s success in diversifying its sources of nuclear fuel for its park of French reactors, responsible for about three quarters of the country’s electricity, has squeezed margins at Areva.

True, France could try to lure foreign investment but outside investors can only ever hope to be junior partners in such a strategic industry. Areva sees itself best placed to pick up business from the €55 billion investment program EDF is considering to extend the average life of its nuclear power plants to 60 from 40 years.

As for EDF, there are financial and commercial risks in being a more vertically integrated nuclear business. Building reactors is capital intensive, while foreign customers may not fancy have the prospect of EDF bidding to build, operate and now equip new projects.

The government could dull the pain by letting EDF raise electricity prices at home. That would bring a smile to the faces of shareholders, not least the state given its 84.5% stake, just not necessarily to those of President Hollande’s electorate

June 6, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

Merger of AREVA and EDF, to save nuclear giant AREVA- French tax-payers to fork out

text-my-money-2France announces plan to merge nuclear reactor businesses of state-owned atomic energy giants, Star Tribune By GREG KELLER Associated Press JUNE 3, 2015 PARIS — French nuclear giants Areva and EDF will merge their reactor businesses in a joint venture controlled by EDF — a wide-ranging reshuffle of the country’s state-owned atomic energy industry.

French President Francois Hollande’s office announced the deal’s broad outlines Wednesday, saying final details would be negotiated by the two companies within a month.

The French government, which controls over 80 percent of both companies, will inject new capital “of the necessary amount” in Areva as part of the deal……

areva-medusa1Areva lost nearly 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) last year after taking a massive loss on new reactor projects in France and Finland……..

Last month Areva announced a 1-billion-euro cost-cutting plan, which included the removal of up to 6,000 jobs.

Only five years ago Areva was seen as a French success story, led by swashbuckling CEO Lauvergeon as it rode the wave of the so-called “nuclear renaissance.”

The company’s fortunes collapsed after a series of failures, including massive cost-overruns and technical failings with its new generation reactor; a disastrous investment in a Nigerien uranium mine; and the aftereffects of a global rejection of nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima reactor meltdown

June 4, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Cut nuclear power, boost renewable energy- Bill passes France’s National Assembly

flag-franceFrench Bill Seeks to Boost Renewable Energy, Cut Nuclear Use
PARIS — May 26, 2015, 
France’s lower house of parliament has approved a bill aimed at boosting renewable energy and reducing the country’s reliance on nuclear power, among other environment-friendly measures.

The French government wants to be exemplary this year in environmental matters, since Paris is hosting a U.N.-backed conference in December where 196 countries aim to limit greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.

The bill pushed by Ecology Minister Segolene Royal was approved Tuesday by the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, with 308 votes for and 217 against. It will then go to the Senate for further discussions. At the end of the process —probably over summer— the assembly will have the final say.

Among the more significant changes are the following measures: Continue reading

May 27, 2015 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion – expensive boondoogle – as far away as ever

nuclear-fusion-pie-SmStar power: Troubled ITER nuclear fusion project seeks new path, Phys Org 23 May  by Pascale Mollard “……Launched in 2006 after years of wrangling, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project is saddled with a reputation as a money pit.

It has been bedevilled by technical delays, labyrinthine decision-making and cost estimates that have soared from five billion euros ($5.56 billion) to around 15 billion. It may be another four years before it carries out its first experiment………

ITER’s job is to build a testbed to see if fusion, so far achieved in a handful of labs at great cost, is a realistic power source for the energy-hungry 21st Century.

Fusion entails forcing together the nuclei of light atomic elements in a super-heated plasma, held by powerful magnetic forces in a doughnut-shaped chamber called a tokamak, so that they make heavier elements and in so doing release energy.

The principle behind it is the opposite of nuclear fission—the atom-splitting process behind nuclear bombs and power stations, which carries the risk of costly accidents, theft of radioactive material and dealing with dangerous long-term waste…….

The tokamak—a word derived from Russian—by itself is an extraordinary undertaking: a 23,000-tonne lab, three times heavier than the Eiffel Tower.

“This is a project of unprecedented complexity… a real challenge,” said Mario Merola, in charge of ITER’s internal components division.

Management tangle

Part of ITER’s problems lie in a diffuse managerial structure and decision-making among its partners: the 28-nation European Union, which has a 45-percent stake, the United States, Russia, Japan, China, India, South Korea and Switzerland. he partners are providing their contributions mostly in kind, which has been a cause of messy, protracted debate about who should provide what, when and how. It has been further complicated by the role of national agencies, which in turn deal with their own suppliers.

In some cases, said Bigot, discussions have dragged on for six whole years without resolution……..By November, there will be a new progress report, with the likelihood of a further increase in the price tag. The project has no reserve fund to deal with the unexpected…..So far around seven billion euros have been contractually committed to the thousand or so companies working on the scheme. Every year of delay adds 200 million euros to the bill……”clearly if we can’t manage this project correctly, if undertakings are not kept… (the project) could be in danger.”

May 23, 2015 Posted by | France, technology | Leave a comment

EDF makes an offer to AREVA

flag-franceNuclear: EDF made an offer to over 2 billion euros in the … – Les Echos 23 May 15 As he announced, the president of EDF Jean Bernard Levy has sent this Friday to Areva executives Philippe Varin and Philippe Knoche, its proposal for the resumption of the activity of reactors Nuclear Group (Areva NP, formerly Framatome). Reportedly, this offer values ​​the activities concerned just over € 2 billion, net of liabilities of the company. Specifically, the valuation is calculated on the basis of a multiple of 7.5 times EBITDA (EBITDA) activities occasions, recalculated according to the area concerned and restructurings that have been completed. “ This is an indicative offer, which must be followed by a period of due diligence before being adjusted to become a firm offer, possibly with conditions precedent ,” said a source close to the folder. “ At this point, the offer of EDF covers about a third of the financing needs of Areva, estimated at around 7 billion euros ,” continues the source.

During his public this week, Jean-Bernard Levy was very explicit. If the proposal EDF responds to a request of the State, its majority shareholder…

May 23, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Australians the suckers as AREVA tries to sell its failed nuclear technology down under

A negative learning curve on steroids What to make of the EPR saga? Areva is backing the wrong horse − the outcome of current political debates will result in a declining role for nuclear power in France, coupled to the growth of renewables.

A new report by ADEME, a French government agency under the Ministries of Ecology and Research, concludes that a 100% renewable electricity supply scenario is feasible in France. The report estimates that the electricity production cost would be €119 per megawatt-hour in 2050 in the 100% renewables scenario, compared with a near-identical figure of €117/MWh with a mix of 50% nuclear, 40% renewables, and 10% fossil fuels.

areva-medusa1Areva has also backed the wrong-sized wrong horse: a giant reactor with a giant price-tag. That said, the backers of ‘small modular reactors‘ are having no more success than Areva. And Areva isn’t having much luck with its mid-sized ATMEA pressurised water reactor………

The EPR saga shows that developing modified versions of conventional reactors (in this case pressurised water reactors) can be complicated and protracted and can end in failure. How much more difficult will it be to develop radically new types of reactors? The French government’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety has recently produced an important critique of Generation IV nuclear power concepts. It states that there “is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors” and it is sceptical about the safety claims made for Generation IV concepts.

Feeling the pressure: Bumbling nuclear’s negative learning curve Jim Green, 21 May 2015, Climate Spectator

French state-owned nuclear giant Areva is offering to sell its ‘world leading’ nuclear technology to South Australia. The offer is being reported in the South Australian media without a hint of irony. A reality check is in order.

Areva has posted losses in each of the past four years including a €4.83 billion loss in 2014. Continue reading

May 22, 2015 Posted by | France, safety, technology | Leave a comment


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