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French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced today that he is calling for a reform of global nuclear standards by the end of this year

Since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan causing troubles with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, there has been a certain amount of nuclear hysteria. For instance, some journalists have sensationalized Japan's nuclear situation, and despite the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's conclusion that nuclear plants in the U.S. were safe, two U.S. senators still pushed for an expensive study to determine if these plants are safe. 

Now, it looks like France is showing some concern regarding the use of nuclear power after visiting Japan recently. French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced today that he is calling for a reform of global nuclear standards by the end of this year.  

"Dear Japanese friends, know that in this appalling catastrophe, the world is watching and admiring you," said Sarkozy. 

In addition, Sarkozy said France would like to host a meeting this May consisting of the bloc's nuclear officials "to fix new norms in the wake of the crisis" in Japan. France is taking it upon itself to lead the assistance of Japan, since, according to Reuters, France is the most dependent on nuclear power.  

"We must address this anomaly that there are no international safety norms for nuclear matters," said Sarkozy.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a U.N. body, sets standards and recommendations, but they are not "legally binding" and member states are responsible for safety.

Japan is certainly having some issues with cooling the reactors' fuel rods, making sure crops grown near the plant are not contaminated, keeping an eye on the amount of radiation in the water, and the increased pressure to expand the 12-mile evacuation zone. But government officials have noted that the situation has become much more manageable as of late, and that levels of radiation outside of the plant's range are low-risk. 

In fact, a reading of downtown Tokyo's radiation levels today showed 0.18 microsieverts per hour, which is low in regards to global standards.  

"All the experts agree that living in Tokyo now does not represent a health risk," said Sarkozy.

But Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan agreed with Sarkozy regarding the call for global nuclear review.  

"In order to avid recurrence of such an accident, it is our duty to accurately share with the world our experience," said Kan.  

According to the report, a total of 28,000 people are either dead or missing due to the earthquakes and tsunamis, and the damage may exceed $300 billion. 

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RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By Slyne on 3/31/2011 1:37:40 PM , Rating: 3
Sarkozy is in a similar situation to Merkel. Even though he is a nuclear power proponent, and was initially playing down the accident at Fukushima, he's facing a half-hysterical nation right now (as opposed to completely hysterical like on the other side of the Rhine river), and elections are coming next year. France's own nuclear plants are aging and there's been widespread opposition to replacing them with next-gen EPR reactors. So he has to convince his own nation that France's standards are high enough that sharing them with the world would make the world safe(r) from nuclear accidents.

That and as mentioned in the post above he's trying to prevent Areva from filing for bankruptcy due to lack of future customers. Areva lost a few contracts lately to competing bids that were cheaper, although arguably less efficient and less safe. So if France handles this PR well, it could actually help them.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By Slyne on 3/31/2011 1:54:41 PM , Rating: 2
And of course, if he could push worldwide regulation so that only Areva's bids meet all the safety criteria, that would be his dream scenario. But hopefully such regulation would address issues like regular testing of backup systems and overstorage of nuclear fuel and other safety practices that are more operator-specific than design-specific but can have a big impact during a crisis.

For instance, about 20 years ago a night watchman in a nuclear plant in France cut off the cable between a reactor and its emergency generator, because he needed it to wire up a nightclub he owned. Thankfully, a later inspection discovered the cable was missing.

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