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Nuclear Energy The Olikiluto nuclear plant in Finland, which AREVA is currently expanding

Published on January 4th, 2012 | by Ravinder Casley Gera

7

The Fukushima Effect Continues: French Nuclear Builder AREVA Announces Losses and Redundancies Amid Slew of Cancelled Projects

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January 4th, 2012 by  

The Olikiluto nuclear plant in Finland, which AREVA is currently expanding

The Olkiluoto nuclear plant in Finland, which AREVA is currently expanding

When the tale is written of humanity’s struggle to switch to a low-carbon economy, the partial meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan last Spring will be remembered in one of two ways: either as a warning sign that steered the world away from a dangerous embrace of nuclear power and spurred the growth of renewables; or as a tragedy which led nations to mistakenly turn their back on a vital source of low-carbon energy.

Which you think it’ll be depends, of course, on your view of nuclear power. But what seems certain is that Fukushima has had a real chilling effect on the growth of nuclear power across the world. Germany, followed by Switzerland, decided to abort plans to replace aging nuclear power stations. Then, Israel signalled the cancellation of its early-stage plans for non-military nuclear power. Then, the UK delayed its plans for new nuclear stations by at least a year for additional safety checks. Belgium decided to blow off nuclear. And the Italian public overwhelmingly defeated efforts to push nuclear through in a groundbreaking public referendum. Even the French have reportedly “thumbed their nose” at nuclear now. And some experts predict the cost of nuclear power, already high, will increase by 50% as the result of raised post-Fukushima safety expectations.

Now, one of the world’s leading nuclear developers, France’s AREVA, has announced losses of €1.6bn as a result of collapsing demand for its products. It’s sacking more than 1200 workers in Germany as the result of the cancellation of that country’s nuclear program. It’s also suspended projects to expand existing power stations in France and the US, BusinessGreen reports.

According to Greenpeace, AREVA — which is owned by the French government — expected 50 new reactors to be ordered this decade, but hasn’t received a single order since 2007.

The biggest problem for AREVA, however, seems to be the collapse in the price of uranium since Fukushima. The Financial Times points out that the price of uranium has slumped from $138 a pound to $50 a pound since the disaster. AREVA paid €1.8bn for UraMin, a Canadian company which operates uranium mines in the Central African Republic, Namibia, and South Africa, when prices were at their height. It’s now ‘writing down’ the value of UraMin by €1.4bn.

Anti-nuclear campaigners such as Greenpeace are quick to argue that AREVA’s woes demonstrate the folly of new investment in nuclear power. Greenpeace UK Energy campaigner Louise Hutchins argues that the company’s work on the Olikiluto power plant in Finland, which is overdue and over budget, is indicative of the future if nuclear power is expanded across the world.

“Areva is the only company still in the running to design the next generation of reactors in Britain, but it has proven itself spectacularly incompetent and incapable of building its own reactor on time or to budget in Finland,” she says. “Now is not the time for the UK government to expose British households to the billions in overspend and years of delays that come with nuclear power. Instead, Britain should be moving to a vibrant and profitable clean energy sector that would provide far more jobs and economic growth as well as safe, reliable energy.”

But AREVA’s CEO, Luc Oursel, told the FT: “Considering the expected growth in electric consumption, we are convinced that the outlook for nuclear and renewable energy development remains strong . . . even if expansion of the global installed base of nuclear reactors is postponed.”

For more on the future of nuclear power, see Tough Road Ahead for Nuclear Power.

Source: BusinessGreen | Via: Greenpeace | More: Financial Times

Picture: WikiMedia Commons

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About the Author

is a London-based freelance journalist passionate about climate change, development and technology. He has written for the Daily Express, Excite.co.uk, and the Fly. He blogs at ravcasleygera.wordpress.com.



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  • Concerned from Pennsylvania

    (See DCBUREAU.com (Feb. 2, 2012) article about Spencer Abraham.)  Last year DCBureau (Washington, DC) published a series of articles about the French-government-owned company Areva and their operations in the United States. DCBureau reported: “At the time, the United States was in the midst of a “nuclear renaissance” and Areva was one of the main beneficiaries. In March, a tsunami swept across the coast of Japan and set in motion a series of events that made the world pause. Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded.”  DCBureau  reported that “Areva had fueled the number three reactor with MOX fuel made in France. The hydrogen explosions spewed plutonium over northern Japan. Plutonium, a byproduct of uranium fission, is also an ingredient in MOX fuel.  If inhaled, plutonium can cause cancer. It lingers in the environment for thousands of years. It will take generations to address the damage.” 

    Please tell your govt. that you do not want French made reactors in the UK fueled with French MOX ; MOX is a very dangerous materal.

    Add’l news – AREVA and PPL (Pennsylvania Power and Light), the parent co. of WPD (Western Power Distribution) in South Wales (recall the hostile takeover of WPD by PPL and how PPL plans on destroying Llanshen resevoir to create a 300 home development) plan on placing a 3rd reactor approx. 2000 ft away from homes of elderely and ill people in Pennsylvania.  One child on the street was born without a thyroid.  Because PPL does not care about the health and safety needs of the public and the environment, I would dump WPD and PPL’s shares if I owned them.

    Concerned from Pennsylvania  

  • BJ DERONDE

    Hi, 
    It’s July 29, 2012 and I am just reading this article at home in the U.S..  Sorry to hear that you folks are still into nuclear power.  However, count yourself lucky that you have the Health and Safety Department people involved in such projects, instead of the Dept. of Energy as we do in the U.S..  The public in the U.S. really have no department looking after their interests;  our govt. really seems to care more about keeping the energy suppliers happy than the people. The people in the UK have more information, that is more easily accessible, and more opportunities to comment than we do in the U.S., which is a real shame.  Wishing you more wind- generated power – not nuclear!  Good luck & God bless.

    B. J. DeRonde, NY    

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  • Bgkolsepatil

    Government of India has undertaken to meet the losses of AREVA a FRENCH undertaking,by buying six reactors worth lacs of corore rupees. When India is blessed with innumerable natural resources of energy.

  • Taisto Leinonen

    Please note and change:
    the nuclear power plant site is “Olkiluoto”
    (in English “Straw Islet”)

    Taisto Leinonen
    Helsinki, Finland

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Correcting.

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