Could France Flip ?
On my birthday in 1974, the Messmer Plan to shift France to nuclear power was born. The first Arab Oil embargo in 1973 had hit France especially hard and PM Messmer decided without public or parliamentary debate that nuclear was the future for France, despite 4000 scientists signing a petition opposed to this choice. In the following 15 years, France built all but 2 of it’s current 58 operating reactors.
If you fight reactors anywhere, you hear a lot about the “French Model”, nearly identical reactors built by the same firm providing most of the electricity for that country and much of Europe. What you dont hear about is that EdF, the company which built those reactors was the most indebted company in the world for decades and repeatedly bailed out by the French government. You dont often hear that the power from these reactors has often been sold at below cost its to neighboring countries. And that the French have stalled both transparency around electricity prices and deregulation in the EU to protect its money losing nuclear industry.
And Fukushima may even have changed the future of nuclear power in France. The French Green party wants the country to completely phase of of nuclear power, they have cut a deal with the opposition Socialist party that in exchange for agreeing to phase out 24 reactors by 2025, they will support their bid to oust current French President Sarkozy, who is an ardent nuclear fan an apologist. Sarkozy was the first head of state to go to Japan after Fukushima. Though the election is not until April or May of 2012, Sarkozy is almost 20 percentage points behind Socialist Hollande. As a long time anti-nuclear activist, it would be especially charming to be able to say “Yes, lets follow the French model, and close the two dozen oldest and most dangerous reactors and start building a real renewable energy future.”
There are a myriad of excellent reports on why the nuclear situation in France is not something other countries would do well to model. Here is one from Greenpeace.
In a curious mixing of my issues, it is likely that the sexual assault of a hotel worker that got Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrested in the US and forced him to quit as head of the IMF, also created the possibility of nuclear phase out in France. DSK was on track to run against Sarkozy as the socialist candidate in the 2012 presidential elections and many thought he would win. DSK’s political record of corruption and financial (ignoring the sex) scandal makes it likely the nuclear industry had him in their pocket. Perhaps the Akashic Record will show a courageous NYC hotel maid coming forward about sexual assault helped close 24 reactors in the heart of the nuclear empire.