by Jarret Adams
Today’s New York Times contains an article that presents a clearly unbalanced report of the progress of the AREVA EPR™ reactor under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland. The article includes several inaccuracies and mischaracterizations all in the pursuit of the writer’s foregone conclusion, albeit posed as a question, “Is the Nuclear ‘Renaissance’ Fizzling?” Such is the title of the blog post accompanying the article. The print version bears the title, “Not So Fast, Nukes,” and the online version, “In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble.” Given these titles, one would not expect a charitable account of the nuclear revival now under way.
Well, from our perspective, the nuclear renaissance is going just fine, thank you.
Despite a global recession, AREVA increased sales in 2008 by more than 10 percent and grew its order backlog by more than 20 percent. We continue to negotiate new deals for EPR™ reactors and other AREVA products and services with customers around the globe.
We recognize that as with any first-of-a-kind project, there is bound to be a learning curve. We are learning much from the EPR™ reactor under construction in Finland and will apply this experience to future projects around the world. At our second EPR™ project in France, we’ve already implemented many of the improvements we’ve learned from the Finland project.
Before construction begins in earnest on the first EPR™ reactors in the United States, AREVA will have completed several others internationally. The success of the Olkiluoto project will not be measured on timetables alone but also on the quality of the product delivered.
In fact, the growing interest in new reactors and other aspects of the nuclear energy infrastructure worldwide suggests the nuclear renaissance is picking up speed.
In North America, we are very committed to a revival of nuclear energy. We are making investments such as a heavy component manufacturing facility in Newport News, Va., and a uranium enrichment facility in Idaho. We also are hiring hundreds of engineers at locations in Lynchburg, Va., and Charlotte to develop the U.S. EPR™ technology. These U.S. EPR™ reactors will be made in America, and their construction and operation will create thousands of new jobs.
In fact, AREVA plans to hire some 12,000 new employees this year worldwide. And our competitors in the nuclear energy sector also are hiring. Today more than 30 new reactors are under consideration in the United States. This hardly paints a picture of a revival that has run “into trouble.” The nuclear energy industry is not pursuing the investments for philanthropic purposes, but because it sees legitimate business opportunities.
Finally, to a few of the mischaracterizations: the article states that AREVA “turned to” Finland for the first EPR™ reactor after having difficulty selling the reactor in France. In fact, the Finland opportunity simply presented itself first. It also states that the NRC will delay review of a license application until the design certification for the U.S. EPR™ reactor is complete. At present, review of license application is being pursued in parallel with the design certification.
In the end, one can expect more articles arguing whether a nuclear renaissance will succeed fueled by those who desperately want it not to succeed. The fact is that nuclear energy’s revival already is under way, and AREVA is at the center of it.
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