Civil Nuclear Energy

I. Responsible development of nuclear energy

The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the context of global warming, the prospect of diminishing energy resources and the growing need for security of energy supply have prompted countries to launch – and for some to relaunch – a nuclear power programme. All States, provided that the comply with the nuclear non-proliferation requirements set out in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970 and whose implementation is verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have an effective right to access nuclear energy.

With its technologies and know-how in the area of civil nuclear energy, France would like to assist States wishing to develop this type of energy that emits low amounts of greenhouse gas as part of intergovernmental cooperation covering a wide range of activities. The French International Nuclear Agency (AFNI), created in 2008, coordinates French institutional aid to foreign States wishing to establish the institutional and legal framework and develop human and technical skills needed to set up a civil nuclear energy sector, in compliance with the highest standards of safety, security, non-proliferation and environmental conservation.

1. Promotion of stringent security standards

Nuclear energy has a considerable impact with it in terms of public health, energy security, economic competitiveness, greenhouse gas emission reduction and, more generally, environmental protection. Continued development of safety standards at the highest levels and their strict application with regular re-evaluations, are absolutely necessary and without them there cannot be responsible development of nuclear energy. Cooperation that France proposes to its partners, with regard to the development of their nuclear power programmes, depends on the expertise of the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) and of its technical support body, the French Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).

2. Promotion of French technologies and expertise

France has been building and operating nuclear reactors for over 50 years. It has the second largest nuclear power capacity in the world and nuclear power is a major component of its energy mix. It has developed industrial and research capabilities, trained and awarded qualifications to highly competent workforces, and acquired unique expertise. As a result, it can now conduct all types of nuclear activities.

The field of expertise of French nuclear actors, including industrials, covers the design, construction and operation of third-generation nuclear reactors, in optimal safety and security conditions. France is also experienced in all stages of the fuel cycle and its government-owned enterprises and public institutions are able to propose the following services: mineral exploration and mining, uranium conversion and enrichment, fuel manufacturing, maintenance of a fleet of reactors, spent nuclear fuel processing and recycling of reusable materials, safe radioactive waste management, and the dismantling of nuclear facilities that have reached their end of life. French expertise is recognized internationally.

When it comes to research and development, France, with its teams from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), has excellent research institutions and outstanding expertise. French scientists and engineers are working on developing fourth-generation reactors, perfecting advanced fuel and equipment for these reactors and optimizing spent fuel and radioactive waste management. According to Parliament guidelines, the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA) is responsible for long-term management of radioactive waste produced in France. It defines, implements and guarantees safe solutions for this waste to protect present and future generations from the associated risks. Moreover, France hosts the international organization for fusion energy, ITER, in Cadarache near Marseille.

II. Support for the French nuclear industry

With the overhaul of the French nuclear industry decided in June 2015 by the President of the French Republic – a key focus of which is the merging of EDF and Areva – , France will be able to conduct an ambitious export policy.

Areva’s nuclear fuel cycle activities were consolidated in a new company called Orano. Industrial activities including reactor building, fuel assembly and installed base services, now grouped under Framatome, were acquired at the end of 2017 by EDF (75.5%) with the participation of the Japanese group MHI (19.5%) and the engineering company Assytem (5%). In charge of developing and promoting reactor technologies, particularly the European Pressurized Reactor, EDF has become the spearhead in the nuclear export sector.

To promote and support responsible development of nuclear energy in the world, France, with its renowned expertise in this area worldwide, counts on the participation of all French institutional and industrial players. The French industrial hub is made up of leading companies on the international market, where much of their development takes place, including EDF, Orano, Engie and GE France, which can rely on a network of small and medium-sized companies, leaders in their area of expertise.

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has an overall vision of the development of nuclear energy in the world. Working with other ministerial departments, its action aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of French companies, to find optimal synergy with all partners abroad and ensure consistent industrial cooperation in the relations France maintains with its foreign partners.

III. Promotion of stringent international standards

Three tools are available to promote stringent safety standards:

1. Capacity to put forward proposals in major multilateral bodies

Nuclear safety is a key component on which there can be no compromise. Therefore France supports the creation of a robust international nuclear safety and security regime. In this context, we participate in the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which aims to establish a set of safety standards covering the entire spectrum of a reactor’s operation. We also work with the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), renowned for its scientific work. We strive to ensure that France’s position and expertise are recognized.
The Ministry also closely follows the activities the International Civil Nuclear Liability Regime which provides populations with effective protection in the event of an accident and secures the investment of our manufacturers.

2. Participation in work on European standards

The first European directive on nuclear safety was adopted in June 2009. The Ministry ensures that it is implemented proactively, with the European Union at the forefront. Generally speaking, the Ministry is involved in work on standards begun in the European Union (review of the directive on basic standards, draft regulations on transporters, etc.) promoting the most stringent requirements in the interest of populations and the environment.

3. Promotion of stringent standards in our bilateral relations

France’s industrial cooperation is included in the intergovernmental cooperation agreement in compliance with international standards enacted by the IAEA, the European Union and supplier regimes in which France takes part. A publication about these agreements has been issued.

Promoting the responsible development of civil nuclear energy, France encourages its partners to implement the highest level of safety, security and non-proliferation.

Contacts: Paul Chichlo and Yves Kaluzny

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Last updated: 23.02.18