President Nicolas Sarkozy has told nuclear workers they can look forward to a second new nuclear construction project. The announcement came after a tour of a factory for nuclear components.
France already employs some 58 nuclear power reactors for about 78% of its electricity, and the first of a new generation of units is under construction at Flamanville. Sarkozy said a site for the new unit would be decided by 2009 and the project "would require that the first stone was laid in 2011."
"The era of cheap oil is finished. Nuclear power is more than ever an industry of the future and a vital energy. Each EPR saves 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year when it replaces a gas-fired power and 11 million tonnes of CO2 per year when it replaces a coal power plant."
"The electricity that leaves an EPR is 30 to 50% cheaper than electricity from gas or coal... This is an historic opportunity for development," Sarkozy concluded.
Suez to step up?
A statement from Suez, following on 4 July, made clear that the firm welcomed the prospect of a new EPR: "This decision contributes to the safety and competitiveness of the energy supply in France and Europe, as well as to the policy of fighting global warming. Building a second EPR in France will benefit the French nuclear industry at large."
It continued that the board of GdF Suez would decide "by the start of 2009 at the latest" on its options in French nuclear development. "If GdF Suez was to decide to be a candidate for the construction and operation of this second EPR in France, the new group would do so in cooperation with French and/or international electrical partners as well as interested electro-intensive industrial parties."
The company concluded its statement by making clear that it had been "working for several months on the various options" and it had "stepped up exchanges and cooperation with Areva."
Sarkozy made his announcement just after a tour of ArcelorMittal's Industeel works. The facility is near Le Creusot in the Burgundy region, which is home to some 82 nuclear-related companies, research institutes and industrial facilities that have banded together into a 'competitiveness cluster'. One member of the cluster is Areva's Chalon facility, another is the Creusot Forge - owned by an Areva subsidiary and also toured by Sarkozy.
The Creusot Forge is one of a handful of facilities that can produce the heavy nuclear-grade forgings required for large components such as steam generators. An Areva investment program will see the forge increase production of large nuclear components - including reactor pressure vessels - while Industeel increases ingot production from 35,000 to 50,000 tonnes per year.
Areva said the Cruesot Forge could make 80% of a nuclear power plant's components at the moment, and that this figure would reach 100%.
Sarkozy was present when Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon and Aditya Mittel, chief financial officer of ArcelorMittal signed a memorandum of understanding to effect the investments.