We already know that the nuclear industry is quite comfortable colluding with governments to deceive the public or spying on environmental groups such that senior executives are sent to jail or lying to regulators to cover up radioactive leaks that are contaminating groundwater.
So, it should come as very little surprise that the nuclear industry has the same ‘flexible’ view on ethics, legality and basic decency when dealing with its own people. In fact, not even the CEO of France’s nuclear giant, Areva, was safe: the Financial Times has recently revealed a catalogue of incompetence, espionage and massive financial failure (follow-up article) swirling around the French nuclear industry:
- Areva purchased a uranium mine for €1.8 billion that was valued at only €1.4 million two years earlier
- after purchase of the mine it became apparent that it contained a fraction of the uranium deposits that the Areva board believed
- a senior Areva executive was exposed as having hired a Swiss private investigation firm to spy on then Areva CEO, Anne Lauvergeon (known as ‘Atomic Anne’ in France)
- Lauvergeon alleges that her husband’s phone was hacked as part of this and is now starting legal proceedings
- the web of intrigue goes as high as the president of France, Sarkozy, who became personally involved when he forced Lauvergeon out and installed a friend of his, Henri Proglio, who also happens to be CEO of EDF, one of the largest energy companies in France and the UK
- Areva have now written off almost €2 billion as a result of the failed uranium mine purchase amid accusations of fraud
This debacle is piled on top of the disastrous nuclear projects that are unravelling in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France where Areva are trying to build their new “Nuclear Renaissance” power plants.
It all paints a picture of a desperate industry in turmoil as nuclear power continues its long-term trend of global decline, with the IEA reporting that nuclear is down 10% year-on-year as renewable energy climbs 24%. Given that the nuclear industry can sometimes more closely resembles a crime syndicate with its illegal activities, it might be a little difficult to find sympathy for its predicament.
Along with flying atomic cars and glittering cities on the Moon, the claims of “unlimited, clean and safe energy” that is “too cheap to meter” that the nuclear lobby began promising in the 1950s have been utterly discredited. If the nuclear piranhas continue eating their own then the planet can focus its full resources on deploying clean, safe and truly sustainable renewable energy in order to mitigate the worst of climate change.