The illegitimate atomic industry

Brèves nucléaires

Without the Paris Convention signed in 1960 by the leaders of 16 European countries who agreed to limit the civil liability of the operator in case of accident, there would be no atomic electricity in Europe, as no insurance would cover the risk generated by this industry. In the event of a serious accident, the whole of Belgium would be affected, as well as neighbouring countries, and the cost would be almost entirely passed on to the citizen(1). A nuclear disaster would cause the death of tens of thousands of people, illness in hundreds of thousands more, and would permanently compromise the future of our children. Millions of people would have to leave their homes forever.


At the end of July 2017, in the state of South Carolina (USA), the construction of two atomic reactors was abandoned, although they are already half built and several billion dollars have already been invested. The reason is the delay and the explosion of the project costs and the impossibility to find investors to pursue the project. In addition to this, there is the bankruptcy of Westinghouse(2), the designer of the reactor model concerned, the AP-1000, and the financial collapse of the Japanese company Toshiba, which had bought Westinghouse in 2006. This case could well herald the end of the only two other US reactors currently under construction (in Georgia, also AP-1000s).(3) Although the United States is still the world’s largest producer of atomic energy with about 100 reactors, it accounts for less than 10% of the electricity consumed in the United States. Since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, this sector has been in decline. The last reactor connected to the grid was in 1996. This situation is reminiscent of France and Areva, in near-bankruptcy and supported at arm’s length by the French government, with the construction of the EPR reactors in Flamanville and Olkiluoto (Finland) for which, to date, the cost has risen from 3 to 10.5 billion euros and for which there is no end in sight to the debacles.(4)

When will the construction of these reactors be stopped?



The « energy pact, » a plan for the future of energy in Belgium until 2050, had been promised for late 2015 by Energy Minister Marie-Christine Marghem and the Michel government. Today, it seems that we are still very far from a serious, ambitious plan that would definitively bury nuclear power in 2025, as in principle foreseen by the current law.

For some weeks now, a non-public document has been circulating, drafted by government officials, which is to serve as a basis for negotiations between the four energy ministers (federal and regional). In the opinion of those who have seen it, this document, which is only 42 pages long, is pitiful and unambitious. On the crucial question of the exit from nuclear power, he leaves the door open to a new extension of the reactors in 2025. Which for me is only half a surprise, after analyzing what the Minister said, for example during two broadcasts on RTBF radio on May 28 (« À votre avis ») and September 12, 2017 (« L’invité de Matin Première »).

This leaves some possibilities for the future of the public consultation on the pact that was promised for November. The first, the least bad, the most honourable, but unfortunately the least likely: the federal Minister acknowledges the weakness of the discussion paper and her own responsibility for the unbelievable delay and postpones the consultation to a later date (moreover, she would have to resign from her position as Minister). The second is that the Minister is postponing the consultation by placing the blame on the regional governments, which is suggested by the term « collective responsibility » she used for the delay in this file. Third possibility: the Minister maintains the November date, which will lead to a fanciful consultation on a fanciful plan that, on the one hand, risks opening the door to a new extension of some Belgian atomic reactors and, on the other hand, will not allow Belgium to fulfill its commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and to deal with the climate.

Francis Leboutte

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Notes et références
  1. Plus de cinq mille milliards d’euros selon deux études allemandes différentes, pour un accident grave en Allemagne. Engie (Electrabel) est responsable à hauteur de 1,2 milliards d’euros, soit moins que le bénéfice que cette société engrange certaines années.
  2. En mars 2017. Les sept réacteurs belges, comme bon nombre de réacteurs en service dans le monde, ont été construits sous licence Westinghouse.
  3. Pour plus d’information, voir le site de Beyond Nuclear (en anglais).
  4. Voir et….

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