Japan Nuclear Crisis Raises Doubts In France
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Unidentified Woman #1: (Speaking foreign language).
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: That is an amazing change of tone for the French nuclear industry, says Yves Cochet, a parliamentarian with the Green Party.
YVES COCHET: (Through translator) For 30 years we have been hearing how France is the world nuclear champion and there couldn't possibly be a serious accident. Now they admit it's possible. They seem a little less arrogant, and it's about time.
BEARDSLEY: For decades, politicians from across the political mainstream have supported nuclear power. And that's why it has been so difficult for the French to be against nuclear energy, says Bernard Laponche, a nuclear physicist who once worked on French reactors.
BERNARD LAPONCHE: We have so much nuclear, they feel that it's impossible to do something different. And also, the government pretended for half a century that it was independence, French independence of energy, which is totally wrong because we are very much dependent on oil.
BEARDSLEY: President Nicolas Sarkozy promised France would draw the necessary lessons from the Japanese disaster.
NICOLAS SARKOZY: (Speaking foreign language).
BEARDSLEY: He called for stress tests at all 58 of the country's nuclear reactors. But Sarkozy said France would continue to rely on nuclear energy, calling it a pillar of the country's energy policy.
BERTRAND BARRE: Is nuclear power safe? There is no answer to that blunt question.
BEARDSLEY: That's Bertrand Barre, a consultant with French nuclear reactor builder Areva.
BARRE: Are we doing what's needed to make nuclear power safe? And the answer is: Indeed, when moving from generation two to generation three, we are increasing a lot the safety of nuclear plants.
BEARDSLEY: Many people in Nogent sur Seine, like Arlette Mayer, say the plant has been good for the town, providing jobs and income.
ARLETTE MAYER: (Speaking foreign language)
BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man #2: (Speaking foreign language)
BEARDSLEY: For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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