French People to Nuclear Industry: Your Mother was a Hamster, and your Father smelt of Elderberries

July 14, 2011

Get into a discussion on nuclear energy and, guaranteed, within 37 seconds, (I’ve timed this), someone will say, “What about the French? They’re completely running on nuclear power!!”

Now, basically, I think if the French want to use nuclear power, good on ’em. It’s well suited to more centralized economies like theirs, where the government will endlessly support cost overruns, delays and snafus, and limit pesky protesters and naysayers. What I really worry about is not the reactors the French have, but the ones they want to sell to Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Jordan,…..

Anyway, it seems that more and more French citizens favor making their freedom fries with non-nuclear electricity, according to Reuters:

In contrast to Germany, which said in May it would withdraw completely from nuclear energy production by 2022, France has been a strong proponent of nuclear power and the government had ruled out dropping it as an energy source.

Although France’s deep dependence on nuclear makes a dramatic volte-face a massive task, with a May 2012 presidential election approaching the government may be tempted to suggest that it is considering a possible pullout.

A poll last month showed three quarters of the French people interviewed wanted to withdraw from nuclear energy, against 22 percent who back the nuclear expansion programme.

While the centre-right UMP party mostly supports the extension of the nuclear programme, the opposition Socialist Party has called for a moratorium on new reactors and promised a national debate on energy transition if elected in 2012.

For a much more detailed, but extremely foul mouthed and scatalogical (you have been warned) analysis of France’s latest nuclear misadventures in Finland, see below….


12 Responses to “French People to Nuclear Industry: Your Mother was a Hamster, and your Father smelt of Elderberries”

  1. Hey Greenman,

    What’s your take on Thorium reactors? I hear that they produce 1/100 of the nuclear waste, the fuel is 200x more efficient than uranium, it’s much more abundant (1000 years worth), the reactors can’t meltdown (they need a constant supply of neutrons to keep going) and you can’t use them to make weapons.

    Would you support them if what is stated above is true?


    • greenman3610 Says:

      I don’t have a religious fixation on this.
      I understand the Indians are working on the thorium model – I am not aware that it has been demonstrated. If you have more info, pass along.

    • BlueRock Says:

      It’s not true. That’s fantasy. The big clue being that they don’t exist.

      Here’s MIT:

      * “Thorium has been considered as a nuclear fuel since the very beginning of the atomic energy era. However, its use in early reactors, whether light-water cooled or gas cooled, has not led any commercial nuclear reactors to operate on a thorium cycle. … Irradiating thorium produces weapons-useable material. … the technology of thorium fuel does not offer sufficient incentives from a cost or waste point of view to easily penetrate the market.”

      Here’s an excellent technical analysis:

  2. fredeliot Says:

    There was a good article on the subject in the July-August 2010 issue of Americal Scientist (published by Sigma Xi). Unfortunately there is a charge to non-members.
    The long term waste is much less i.e. actinide production is reduced by a factor of
    10000. One proposal is the Liquid Floride Thorium Reactor where waste is removed on a continuous basis. They are have a higher utilization factor than current reactors but they are not 200 times more efficient.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      is this on paper or in reality?
      you need to build one and operate it for a while to know if it’s real.

    • BlueRock Says:

      There’s something even better than thorium reactors – dylithium crystal reactors.

      Actinide production is reduced by a factor of 10^18 and they are 20,000 times more efficient. The only waste they emit is a faint scent of vanilla.

      Trouble is, it shares the same problem as thorium reactors – no one knows how to build them.

      Looks like we’re stuck with that clean, safe, never-ending, boring renewable energy….

  3. @BlueRock

    (I can’t seem to reply directly via FB log-on)

    I was referring to the buzz in the news lately regarding ADSRs (Accelerator-driven sub-critical reactor) using a small accelerator to provide neutrons – like the EMMA (Electron Model of Many Applications) accelerator

    which is “the world’s first ‘non- scaling, fixed-field, alternating-gradient’ (NS-FFAG) accelerator” or “a pocked-sized machine” as they call it.
    (don’t mind the usual journalistic “save the world” babble)

    The article cites scientist from the Thorium Energy Amplifier Association ( which in its 2010 report estimate that a 600MW plant could be built in the next 15 years at a cost of £2 billion

    The factor of 200 was referring to natural thorium being a fertile material (absorbing neutrons produces fissile U(233) whereas natural uranium has 0.7% of fissile U(235)).

  4. fredeliot Says:

    The difficulty in separating U233 from U232 makes it less attractive to make weapons than using conventional reactors to produce Pu239. While the article cited is fairly comprehensive, most of the arguements can be found at I don’t know if this may be part of the solution to our clean energy future. While we we have congressmen who want to ban a requirement for more efficient lightbulbs, there does not appear to be any willing to look into the possibility that this should be seriously investigated. Maybe India or China will make enough progress to wake them up.

  5. fredeliot Says:

    Having read it is clear that there are a number of hurdles that may not be overcome in the near future. For now we better off putting our research efforts in technology that is near at hand.

  6. daryan12 Says:

    Like the article and thanks for the videos. It would be funnier alright if it wasn’t so damn serious!

    Still I had a pop at the French nuclear industry a few weeks ago. Again I’m being a bit tongue in cheek but it might give you a wee laugh!

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