(asked by Kimberlee from somewhere)

As an American, I have a sense of unease when driving through the French countryside and seeing the towers. Am I a victim of propaganda from my own country, or are the French?

We’re hitting a pretty interesting topic here.
So who’s the victim of propaganda about nuclear plants? The French or the Americans?
What about both?

A few facts: 80% of the electricity produced and used in France comes from nuclear plants.
Why is that? Because back in 1973, when the very first oil crisis happened, France thought it could be a good idea to disengage itself from overreliance on fossil fuels, especially when dealing with energy production.

Another thing about nuclear plants: they don’t pollute.
In the US, because most electricity is produced by power plants that use either coal or oil, every single time you turn a switch on, some CO2 gets released in the atmosphere. Yep, every single time you do something using electricity you pollute. And even when you don’t do it; you know, when you leave your TV and other electrical device on sleep mode, when you leave the light on under your porch or in the room where you’re not, and other similar things, every time you do these things you pollute and participate in making global warming a reality more and more every day.

But what about France you’re asking me? After all, there are those big towers with all of this smoke that comes out of it.
First of all, keep in mind that it’s not because you don’t see the towers in the US that there are no towers. It’s just that the US is big enough to have the plants being built far from roads and all (I found out there was a big power plant with huge chimneys near the town where I used to live when I saw an aerial shot of that town; the plant just couldn’t been seen from anywhere in town)
Then, in France, you get to see the towers and their big white smoke. Except that the smoke is not smoke. It’s something called “steam”, or in other words water. icon smile Why arent the French more concerned about nuclear power generation and nuclear waste disposal?

What about nuclear waste? It usually gets buried really really deep (1,000 to 2,000 feet), in areas that are not earthquake prone and there, it won’t bother anyone for the next 10,000 years where it’ll remain radioactive. Not really a big problem.

And accidents you’re asking? What about accidents? After all everybody remembers Chernobyl (at least in Europe).

Well, first of all, Chernobyl was nothing comparable to French nuclear plants. The technology was different, the safety measures were different, everything was different (public safety never was a primary concern in the Soviet Union, it’s a bit different in Western democracies… at least a bit), but that being said, I admit that no nuclear plant is 100% safe.

But being scared of them is not a rational behavior.
It’s a bit comparable to the difference between how dangerous planes and cars are and how scared people are of them.
Many people are scared to fly on a plane, while almost nobody is scared to ride a car, while cars are far more dangerous than planes, and the chances you have to die in a car crash every single time you sit in a car are much much higher than dying in a plane crash when you fly. But plane crashes are more spectacular, they kill hundreds of people at once, they make the headlines all over the world, so people are scared of them, whereas they don’t even pay attention to the car crashes that happen in their area. And in the end, the number of people killed by cars will always exceed by far the number of people killed by planes.

It’s a bit the same thing with nuclear plants and power plants.
Nuclear plants are scary, they could blow up at anytime and if that happened that would kill a bunch of people and badly mess up a whole region. But so far, it has happened once in history.
In the meantime, fossil fuel based power plants pollute a little bit more every day, messing up the whole planet little by little, having indirectly killed lots of people already and keeping on doing so on a daily basis.
And worse, when more people use electricity from a nuclear plant it doesn’t increase its chances to blow up, while when more people use electricity from fossil fuel based power plants, it does increase the pollution they create and as such are guilty of the state of the planet.

So, which one is worse?

pixel Why arent the French more concerned about nuclear power generation and nuclear waste disposal?

3 Responses to “Why aren’t the French more concerned about nuclear power generation and nuclear waste disposal?”

  1. Well…..

    Yes, people do have an exaggerated fear of nuclear power stations, but they are not carbon-emission free. How does all the concrete required to make them get produced and transported (likewise all the other components)?

  2. Very informative! Thanks!

    - Driftingfocus

  3. well, David, I have been impressed by the variety of energy production in France, particularly nuclear.

    but isn’t it true that there is a growing debate regarding the disposal of nuclear waste in France? and growing concern regarding the impact? what light can you shed on that aspect?

Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv Enabled

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

© 2007-2011 Ask a Frenchman (except for pictures, graphics and such - Logo © 2011 - FB)Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha