Atom, mon amour: French faith in nuclear power
This documentary concerns the apparent French infatuation with nuclear power. France presently has 58 nuclear power plants, the most in Europe. Globally, only the US has more nuclear plants. Filmmakers interview French residents living adjacent to a Normandy plant about the risks. They give replies, such as “We’re used to it” and “It’s part of our culture.” Most are unaware the plant is contaminating local local seafood by discharging radioactive wastewater into the ocean.
In addition to visiting an operation nuclear power plant, the filmmakers visit a new nuclear waste disposal site under construction 500 meters underground. The French government plan to store liquid nuclear waste in metal drums there for more that 100,000 years.*
They also visit the Saclay Nuclear Research Center, staffed by 6,000 international researchers. The French are eager to resume exports of their state-of-the art nuclear power plants once the furor over the Fukushima meltdown. The center also engages in research in renewable energy, which according to DW, “isn’t a priority in France.”**
The segment I found the most interesting concerns the French antinuclear movements. Local activists reveal that all nuclear power stations are owned and operated by the French government, which heavily subsidizes the price consumers pay for power (ie they sell it at a lower price than the cost of production).
The French activists meet regularly with German antinuclear activists. The latter found it was much easier to shut down Germany’s nuclear power network, as local and regional government have far more authority than in France.
The activists also complain about the massive amount of pro-nuclear propaganda the French government produces. In one example a newscast following the Chernobyl meltdown reveals fallout plumes miraculously changing course at the French border.
Despite ongoing surveillance, stalking and harassment by the police, the French antinuclear movement has forced the government to adopt stringent safety requirements that significantly delayed new plants from opening.
Moreover pressure from German activists and authorities is blamed for the impending closure of France’s oldest nuclear plant Fessenheim, located on the French-German border.
*I find this notion quite unrealistic, given that metal fatigue tends to cause metal containers to begin leaking in 30-100 years.
**Under its commitment to the EU renewable energy directive of 2009, France has a target of producing 23% of its total energy needs from renewable energy by 2020. This figure breaks down to renewable energy providing 33% of energy used in the heating and cooling sector, 27% of the electricity sector and 10.5% in the transport sector. In addition, France actively exports innovative renewable technologies worldwide: French Renewable Energy