Clin d’œil de l’“homme malade de l’Europe” et de son secteur public archaïque…

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Ci-après, un round-up (de nos sources internes) sur les questions de l’énergie du nucléaire civil, actuellement dans un courant très rapide de relance et de transformation. Ces analyses concernent d’abord l’Europe.

Un constat : la France est au centre du jeu. Son industrie nucléaire civile est le principal acteur du marché mondial, avec les USA. En Europe, elle est modèle et chef de file.

L’électricité produite par la France est l’une des moins chère d’Europe. C’est EdF qui produit cette électricité, — c’est-à-dire, jusqu’à ce jour, une industrie totalement sous contrôle de l’État. Pour ceux qui veulent bien consentir à écouter, — en ayant à l’esprit que le nucléaire civil n’est évidemment qu’un industrie de pointe parmi bien d’autres où la France excelle, — cela en dit long sur ce pays “ringard”, dépassé, cet « homme malade de l’Europe » (Nicolas Baverez, dans Les Échos du 8 mars) tel que le célèbre l’école des déclinologues-déclinistes, où il y a foule, notamment à Saint-Germain-des-Près. Même chose pour l’activité des industries avancées nationalisées. Pendant ce temps, le prix du gaz explose au Royaume-Uni, modèle exemplaire du libéralisme, et la situation est si chaotique qu’une politique de rationnement a été suivie cet hiver, et sera sans doute poursuivie à l’hiver 2007.

« France determined not to be left behindTwenty years after the Chernobyl nuclear plant coughed a cloud of radiation over much of Europe and scared consumers and governments away from atomic power for a generation, a new crop of leaders, from North America to Europe to Asia, is thinking nuclear. One country has done perhaps the most to push the pendulum back toward atomic power: France. As the only European country that continued making new nuclear plants after Chernobyl, France has up-to-date expertise that it's keen to export. And the market for its know-how is ballooning. Oil is nearly unaffordable, gas supplies are unreliable and coal-fired power plants clog lungs and may overheat the earth. With energy worries topping the world's agenda, even a few environmental activists are reconsidering nuclear power, persuaded by improved safety and the fear that fossil fuels are even worse. China and India are embracing nuclear energy to support breakneck growth. The United States and Russia are reviving long-dormant nuclear plans, overriding concerns about proliferation of the potentially deadly technology. The international standoff over Iran's nuclear program — which the West fears is aimed at making bombs, not electricity — hasn't dampened other governments' desire for nuclear energy. Even Britain, Italy and the Netherlands are talking about nuclear power. So far it's only talk — but groundbreaking talk, given the two-decade taboo on the topic. “We're positioned rather well for a nuclear renaissance,” Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier, a vice president of the world's biggest reactor manufacturer, Areva, said from the cutting-edge fortress that forms their Paris headquarters. France is the most nuclear energy-dependent country in the world, with 59 reactors churning out nearly 80 percent of its electricity. It has the world's biggest electricity utility — Électricite de France, or EdF. And it has Areva, which operates the factory here in Chalon-sur-Saone — and which is key to France's international nuclear influence.

» France the nuclear preacherFrance is selling more than electricity and reactor parts. It's preaching an updated version of the long-abandoned nuclear idea, a gospel of emission-free energy that will wean nations of dependence on foreign fuel and harness the power of the atom for a peaceful, electrified future. Its key partner in this mission comes from an unexpected corner: the United States. After two decades on the defensive, the nations' nuclear industries are cooperating closely in the hopes of reaping rewards from a new nuclear boom. The pear-shaped nuclear reactors that dot the French landscape don't alarm Helene Gassin as much as the thriving, expanding factory in this modest industrial town, circled by vineyard-blanketed hills. “Whenever we see an offer on nuclear energy, anywhere in the world, it comes from France,” said Gassin, a Greenpeace activist who has fought France's all-powerful nuclear industry for years. “Nuclear is the French identity.” Gassin and the few nuclear opponents in France's legislature say that's because the industry is run by a monopoly (EdF) which is in turn run by the state. France has also never suffered an accident the likes of Chernobyl or the 1979 disaster at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Greenpeace calls that luck. London-based energy analyst David Bryant calls it “protecting your reputation.” He says the French government has made safety paramount because it's key to keeping the crucial industry afloat.

» Making big moneyFrance, without oil or gas or much coal, chose the nuclear path in the 1970s and hasn't turned back. But only in the last few years has France's nuclear industry gone so aggressively global, as the bulging bank accounts at Areva attest. The company has become a showcase of French industrial might, with revenues of €10.1 billion ($12 billion) last year and net profits excluding one-time gains up 54 percent since 2002. Areva Chairman Anne Lauvergeon accompanies French President Jacques Chirac on his major trips abroad. Some 25 reactors are under construction around the world, adding to the network of 440 commercial nuclear power plants spread out over 31 countries that supply 16 percent of world's total electricity. Areva is directly involved in at least five of the new projects. A key to this resurgent interest is cost. While each new reactor costs several hundred million euros (dollars), a University of Chicago study concluded that a new fleet of more efficient reactors can be expected to produce power as cheaply as coal and natural gas.

» The cheapest electricity in EuropeFrance's electricity is among the cheapest in Western Europe, costing 9 euro cents (11 US cents) per kilowatt hour before taxes, below that of anti-nuclear Germany (13 euro cents, or 15 US cents) and neighboring Italy (14 euro cents, or 17 US cents), according to Eurostat. The high-profile battle for control of U.S. nuclear company Westinghouse — which Toshiba recently bought from British Nuclear Fuels for €4.5 billion ($5.4 billion), twice the expected price — underscores the business world's view that the industry is poised for a takeoff. More and more governments are joining research into the next generation of reactors. The nuclear industry says Generation IV reactors will be the most efficient yet, will produce less waste and will be simplified to better prevent and handle accidents. Still, for anti-nuclear activists, the shadow of the world's worst nuclear accident, the April 26, 1986, explosion at Chernobyl in then-Soviet Ukraine, will never recede.

» EU seeks guidance from France. — Asia is the nuclear industry's jackpot. With demand for energy in China and India skyrocketing, costs for traditional energy sources are expected to rise, sparking calls for alternatives — especially atomic ones. The most surprising new nuclear debate, however, is coming from Europe. European public opinion remains strongly anti-nuclear, and Sweden and Germany are shutting down, not starting up, reactors. Yet Russia's row with Ukraine over gas transit highlighted the continent's dependence on unstable outside energy sources. Some governments are hoping that an EU-wide proposal to boost nuclear energy would help them overcome domestic protests. The plan's architect? France. »


Mis en ligne le 16 mars 2006 à 18H32

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