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Activists confronted the French prime minister in Helsinki

05.06.2006 Harri Lammi

Greenpeace activists greeted the French prime minister Dominique de Villepin today in Helsinki with a demonstration, as Villepin met the chair of the Finnish parliament to discuss energy policy. The demonstrators erected a ten meter high inflatable nuclear reactor in front of the parliament main building and unfurled banners saying “STOP EPR” and “EPR – Non Merci”. In the afternoon Villepin is to visit Eurajoki.

The aim of Villepin’s PR visit is to try and save the face of the French nuclear industry. The EPR construction project in Olkiluoto, run by the French state controlled nuclear company Areva is in trouble. After a year of construction, the project is already 9 months behind schedule due to technical and safety related problems.

The welding seam of the test pressure vessel manufactured in Japan did not pass the quality control, while in Finland the concrete used for the base slab was found to be too porous. According to the Finnish nuclear safety authority STUK Areva’s quality control and education of the subcontractors has failed. The porousness of the reactor base slab questions the stability of the containment. STUK has, however, allowed the construction work in Olkiluoto to continue, even though the final safety analysis hasn’t been done.

– It worringly looks like STUK, who is supervising the construction proces, sets construction time tables before safety, says Jan Vande Putte, the nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace International. The project is dangerous and must be stopped, Vande Putte says.

The French nuclear industri is in trouble.
Areva is planning to build another EPR reactor to Flamanville in France. In May Greenpeace revealed an internal safety analysis of the nuclear companies, stating that the EPR will not withstand a terrorist attack made with a passenger aircraft.

Only a week ago Greenpeace reported that the biggest nuclear waste storage in France has contaminated groundwater in the La Hague area. Repairing the huge storage may cost billions of euros.

The EPR nuclear plants is the second try of the French nuclear industry to introduce a new reactor type. Its predecessors, the four N¤ reactors that were completed in the late 1990s have all run into problems and altogether the production breaks have lasted already years.

– It looks like the ones who are eventually going to have to pay for the delays are the taxpayers, both in France and Finland, In France in the form of 610 million euro export credits, and in Finland in the form of additional emission rights that the government will be buying to compensate the extended use of coal in the Kyoto emission trading period, says Greenpeace energy specialist Harri Lammi.

– Despite of the industry promises, it looks like the EPR is going to cost the Finns more than renewable energies, such as biomass and coastline wind power.

Lisää taustamaterjaalia (englanniksi)

For more information:
Harri Lammi, energy specialist, Greenpeace, +358 50 383 1822
Mikael Sjövall, press officer, Greenpeace, +358 50 369 6202
Jan Vande Putte, nuclear campaigner, Greenpeace International, +32 49 61 61 584