Debunking The French - US Nuclear Power Comparison


Reactor fuel rods. Image credit:USDOE, EIA; via: Penn State Radiation Science and Engineering Center.

We often get comments on our posts to the effect that 'if only we were like the French with their successful nuclear power program.' The most ridiculous one I recall asserted 'If it weren't for you anti-nuc liberals, we could have clean nuclear power like France does.' So common is the US myth of French nuclear power as an exemplary model for the US, I can't resist the occasional provocation, like I did in yesterday's post with: 'France is about the size of Texas and has lower total nuclear power output than the US currently does.'

After reading a recent article in the Global Journal of Energy Machinery, by Stephen Thomas, of the University of Greenwich, I found some more ''hot rods' to insert in the myth reactor. Read on, for some fissionable quotes from Dr Thomas.French, USA comparison on nuclear power development is delusional: a synopsis.

The U.K. energy expert said that, not only is nuclear power in France, Finland, and Great Britain now plagued with problems, but almost nothing that is positive about the experiences in those nations would translate to the United States. Thomas is the author of "Areva and EDF: Business Prospects and Risks in Nuclear Energy" (March 2009) and the co-author of "The Financial Crisis and Nuclear Power" (February 2009)...

"For example, the mistaken notion that the United States need only copy the 'French model' on nuclear power is particularly bizarre. The two main French entities in nuclear power - Areva and EDF - originally were and remain today largely branches of the French government. They are directed as a matter of state policy and have benefited from extremely favorable government financing and credit assurances. To duplicate this experience in the United States, you would essentially have to nationalize your electric utilities and have all new power plant siting decisions emanate from the White House."

Contemplating this makes me appreciate how valuable it is to have as U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr Steven Chu, a prominent physicist who is in a position to understand both the science and the governance options, directing US energy development. Via Matt's post introducing us to Dr.Chu:
Born in St Louis, Missouri in 1948 into a family of scholars, Chu went on to earn a BA in mathematics and a BS in physics from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1987, he became professor of physics at Stanford University, and chaired the department from 1990-1993, and again from 1999-2001. In 1997 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for "development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light". Just prior to his becoming the Secretary of Energy, Chu was professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at UC Berkeley, and the the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Of course, there is way for the US to match France in government control of the nuclear power industry: have GM buy up the nucs. ;-)

Additional posts on French Nuclear Power from TreeHugger archives: e.g. 'montagne du fromage.'
Climate Stage Right: Enter The French Nuclear Empire
McCain: Why Can't We Be Like France?
France To Complete European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) By ...
France Recolonizing Northern Canada For Uranium
Nuclear Energy - Screwing US Taxpayers Behind The Scenes
Cost Increase Ants Spoiling The Nuclear Picnic

Tags: France | Nuclear Power