French Nuclear Power: A Model for the World?
AbstractIn today’s scramble to secure renewable sources of energy that will both reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sustain energy needs throughout the 21st century and beyond, developed and developing countries alike are pursuing a wide array of options. In this paper, I analyze the costs and benefits of nuclear energy by examining France’s putatively successful nuclear industry, which many leaders in the U.S. have recentlycited as an energy model to follow. Yet can the French model be realistically followed in other parts of the world, namely in the U.S.? In an effort to challenge the myth of nuclear energy as an energy panacea for the U.S.—which can be seen as a proxy for other countries considering nuclear energy—in the 21st century, I examine the unique cultural and political climate that fostered nuclear energy in France. An illustration of France’s distinct political institutions, cultural inclinations, and minimal access to natural resources facilitates this process. These findings lead to the conclusion that the positive economic benefits accrued from the French government’s unilateral adoption of nuclear power have overshadowed its negative aspects— specifically, the problem of waste disposal and the industry’s vulnerability to water supply stability—and thus distorted its potential to help or hinder France and the world.
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