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Superphénix: Foreign investors doubt about participation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1994) A week after the authorization to increase the capacity of the French plutonium burner (late fast breeder reactor), Superphénix has stopped again due to an incident: steam escaped from one of the four steam generators. The plant has been stopped at 7 % of the capacity just at the moment it started to produce electricity.

(423.4189) WISE Amsterdam - On 21 October, the French minister of environment Mr. M. Barnier submitted in Parliament that it will be very difficult to modify the fast breeder into a "sous-generateur" (a plutonium burner). One of the deputies Madam Ségolène Royale stated in parliament that prime minister M. Balladur refused to set up a parliamentary commission to investigate Superphénix because this would have proved that the Superphénix is not only a threat for the environment (because of the production and the transport of plutonium) but also that it has no industrial future and it is a financial failure.

The restart of the Superphénix costs between a 600 and 700 millions French Francs a year (US$ 112-130 million). Concerning financial aspects there are new problems rising. Foreign investors have serious doubts about continuation of their participation. In Venice (Italy) the European partners of the NERSA, the owner of the Superphénix, had a reunion on October 7. The SBK company, which is a consortium of German, Dutch, Belgian and British electricity utilities, and which has a share of some 16 % of the Superphénix, sent out a statement. Ulrich Mutscher, manager of the SBK envisages to decrease the financial participation, even to retire completely, after having heard the announcement about the transformation of the status of Superphénix.

The Italian company (ENEL: owner of 33 % of the reactor) has got the same problems. Italy stopped its nuclear program after Chernobyl in 1986 and the participation in the French nuclear program is contested a lot. The action group "Europeans against Superphénix" calculates that in case the NERSA dissolves, SBK and ENEL can possibly ask for repayment of some FFr 18 billion (US$ 5.3 billion). After all France decided about the change of status on its own.

In the mean time the actions against the 'laboratory Superphénix' and against the arrests of the spokesman of ContrAtom (and two others) continues. Thousands of charges are laid against the plant (see WISE-NC 421.4175) and this action is not yet ended.

The Swiss television documentary "Superphénix, stupid story of a monster" realized by B.Mermod, has been awarded as the best journalistic contribution of 1994 at the German Environmental film.


  • Silence (Fr), November 1994
  • La Gazette Nucleaire (Fr), November 1994

Contact: Les Européens contre Superphénix, 4 rue Bodin, F-69001 Lyon France.
Tel: + 33-78.282.922; Fax: + 33-72.077.004