François Richier, Ambassador of France to India, writes:

On reading the article, ‘Halt Flamanville EPR work, says nuclear watchdog’, (The Hindu, December 18, 2013) I was struck by the degree of its factual inaccuracy. This was probably unintended but I wish to respond to it for the sake of clarity.

Unlike the claim of the article title, no orders have been issued to halt the works for the EPR reactor at the Flamanville site. Notices have been sent by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) to EDF (the French utility in charge of the Flamanville project) for non-compliance with the regulations of certain equipment. This equipment consists of trolleys for handling other components, and by no means any part of the reactor, even less the heart of the reactor, as falsely stated in the article. EDF is finalising a response to the questions raised by ASN and their plans remain unchanged.

France is the leading country in the field of nuclear energy: the 58 power plants and fuel cycle facilities meet more than 75 per cent of its electricity needs, provide French consumers with electricity at the lowest tariff in Europe and allow for the export of power to several European countries, including Germany. The large share of nuclear energy in France’s energy mix drastically diminishes the country’s CO2 emissions and increases its energy independence.

Nuclear safety comes before any other consideration. That is why the EPR technology, using the feedback from the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents, incorporates safety features which makes this reactor ten times safer than the second generation reactors currently in operation in the world, enables it to generate 22 per cent more electricity than a conventional reactor while using the same amount of uranium, and produces 15 to 30 per cent less radioactive waste owing to better uranium combustion.

In addition to the Flamanville EPR reactor, three other such reactors are currently under construction, one in Finland — Olkiluoto 3, and two in China — Taishan 1 and 2. The works at the Flamanville site have encountered delays and cost overruns. Nevertheless, major steps were successfully achieved: the latest one is the installation of the dome of the Flamanville EPR reactor in July 2013, weighing 260 tonnes and measuring 46 metres in diameter. The works at the Taishan site are progressing swiftly, using the feedback experience of the Flamanville and Olkiluoto projects. All these reactors are due to come online by 2016.

In October, the U.K. government ordered the construction of two similar EPR reactors.

The supply of EPR reactors to India, the same one as in Flamanville, is currently being discussed. Once completed, the Jaitapur project will provide India with one-sixth of its nuclear capacity targeted by 2032. Indians will benefit from cheap, bulk electricity under state-of-the-art safety conditions; this will also contribute to sustainable development as well as countering climate change.

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