Greenpeace warning: Deja vu for Ontarians

Media Release: 16 April 2008

French reactors suffer from delays, cost overruns and chronic technical problems

Toronto - On the eve of the annual general meeting in Paris of Areva, the world's largest nuclear company, Greenpeace called on governments and investors who may be contemplating building a nuclear reactor to think again, warning that new French reactors can seriously harm their energy sector and their financial situation. Areva is one of three companies hoping to win a contract to build reactors in Ontario.

"Areva's new `Evolutionary Pressurized Reactor' is turning out to be the same old nuclear nightmare," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. "Despite promises of cheap, safe, reliable electricity, Areva's customers are getting an economic and safety nightmare. For Ontarians accustomed to the cost over-runs, delays and unreliability of CANDU technology, it's déjà vu all over again," he continued.

Contrary to Areva's claims, construction of its two flagship Evolutionary Pressurized Reactor (EPR) projects, in Finland and France, have run into serious problems. The Finnish reactor at Olkiluoto is already two years behind schedule since construction started in 2005 and costs have soared by Euro 1.5 billion. It is beset by technical problems which could have potential safety implications. Project partners Siemens and Areva have been hit by related economic losses and are seeking to claw back additional costs from their customer, the utility TVO, despite having signed a fixed-price contract. As a result of delays in bringing the EPR online, and the failure to pursue alternative investments in renewable energy or energy savings, the Finnish government is facing problems both in meeting its Kyoto target on greenhouse gas emissions and in ensuring the reliability of power supplies in coming years.

The attempt to build an EPR in France, which began last December, is encountering similar difficulties with the French nuclear safety agency noting a series of deficiencies in the construction following an inspection in March.

Areva, 87 per cent of whose shares are controlled by the French state, set itself the goal of delivering its first two EPR projects in Finland and France. The company is also lobbying hard for a massive expansion in nuclear power internationally, including Canada.

"In attempting to sell their nuclear projects around the world, Areva and the French government are playing a dangerous game which diverts attention away from cost-effective clean energy solutions which are available here and now," said Stensil.

"Areva's failure to deliver reactors on time and on budget is a warning of what lies ahead if Ontario doesn't reject its nuclear commitment," added Stensil.

Areva, Westinghouse and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) are bidding to build their reactor designs in Ontario. None of the designs, however, can be built fast enough to meet Ontario's looming electricity gap or stop dangerous climate change, notes Stensil.

For more information:

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, energy campaigner, Greenpeace Canada - 416-884-7053 (French/English)

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