French Nuclear Follies

It hasn’t exactly been a great month for nuclear energy here in France, with no less than four incidents involving radioactive leaks and exposures. The most recent one involved 100 employees exposed to apparently minor levels of radioactive particles, but it was the second incident at the plant in question, where earlier this month water containing unenriched uranium leaked from an underground pipe. In investigating that leak, authorities found levels of radioactivity that couldn’t be explained by the quantities involved. (Cue scary music.)

So what better time to announce the planned construction of France’s second European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), as Nicloas Sarkozy did earlier this month? According to the article, on a national level, France doesn’t actually need the reactor, and would be better served by a gas- or coal-fired plant that can be operated to meet peaks in demand. But on a European level, the plant will allow France to export carbon-free energy to its nuclear-phobic neighbors. It also serves to demonstrate France’s commitment to the EPR, which it is aggressively selling abroad but only has one currently under construction itself.

The point, I suppose, is to demonstrate how great it is to be green, even if it is a green that glows in the dark.