France looks at its own nuclear industry

March 31, 2011 at 11:45 PM
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PARIS, March 31 (UPI) -- France, with its heavy reliance on nuclear power for electricity, is taking another look at its industry after the Japanese crisis, French officials said.

Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant crisis, set off by the March 11 earthquake-tsunami, is expected to bring changes in the French nuclear industry that could have a global impact, The New York Times reported.

France, with its highly advanced nuclear industry, is not moving away from nuclear power, which meets about 80 percent of its demand, but the Times said Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of France's Nuclear Safety Authority, informed Parliament this week that lessons need to be learned from the Japanese disaster and safety procedures upgraded.

He said the immediate task is to assess potential risks from natural disasters such as those in Japan, which until now have not been taken into account in France.

"Nobody can guarantee that there will never be a nuclear accident in France," he warned, adding the likelihood of more than one natural disaster occurring at the same as happened in Japan "is a subject that until now we didn't really take into account."

"Climate change is changing the situation," he said. "Extreme events that so far happened every thousand years along the coast now happen every hundred years."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the first foreign leader to visit Japan since the March 11 calamity, said there should be new nuclear safety guidelines for the Group of 20 countries.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will hold a meeting on nuclear regulators around the world to discuss the impact of Japan's nuclear crisis but Sarkozy wants the meeting moved up, The Times said.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has ordered a safety audit of the 58 nuclear power plants in the country.

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