No choice between poverty and the environment

08 March 2010

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said the world must not choose between poverty and protecting the environment. With nuclear energy, he said, we can change our economies towards new forms of power generation. 

Sarkozy at Paris OECD meeting, March 2010 (Elysee - P. Segrette)
Sarkozy in Paris today

Speaking at the International Conference on Access to Nuclear Energy in Paris today, Sarkozy said that solutions to future energy needs would not be found in no-growth theories. Such policies were selfish and would force the poorest people of the world to stay in their current situation and 'would close the door' on have-nots.  

France is deeply convinced that nuclear power is the key to more equitably sharing wealth on the planet. According to Sarkozy the world would need 40% more energy by 2030, with the vast majority of the increase in demand taking place in non-OECD countries, and nuclear energy use must grow in these developing regions.

Sarkozy said that the world would need renewables and nuclear if we were to honour our goals on climate change.

The French President complained that nuclear projects were ostracised in terms of international funding. This, he said, was sentencing poorer countries to use more expensive generation options. The World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development should undertake fully to fund new nuclear power generation. Meanwhile he called for the current rules governing the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism to be changed too to include nuclear energy projects, as the present restriction was impacting on the energy choices of poorer countries.

Sarkozy also had advice for countries starting to embark on nuclear energy programs. The general public needs to be closely involved in any project, with full consultation. Those countries wanting to embark on civil nuclear power must do so with full transparency.


Sarkozy proposed that an independent authority, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), should develop ratings for reactor designs currently in the market based on safety and security. His comments come after Areva's painful rejection by nuclear planners in the United Arab Emirates, who opted for South Korean designs instead. At present, according to Sarkozy, the only rating available to compare reactors is price, whereas Areva has since claimed its designs to be superior in safety and security.


Sarkozy also said the international community would also have to address the reprocessing and recycling of recovered fuel materials. France is opposed to the views of some countries that feel that reprocessing should be limited to a small number of countries. However, broader access to reprocessing would require giving stronger powers to the IAEA. France had found reprocessing the best way to deal with high-level radioactive nuclear waste and would cooperate with many countries to help with the use of reprocessing, Sarkozy said.

By Jonathan Cobb

for World Nuclear News