On 11 March 2011 Japan suffered an earthquake of very high magnitude, followed by a tsunami that left thousands dead in the Sendai region, the main consequence of which was a major nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power station. The accident ranked at the highest level of severity on the international scale of nuclear events, making it the biggest since Chernobyl in 1986. It is still impossible to gauge the precise scope of the consequences of the disaster, but it has clearly given rise to the most intense renewed debates on the nuclear issue.
Futuribles echoes this in the “Forum” feature of this summer issue which is entirely devoted to energy questions. Bernard Bigot, chief executive officer of the technological research organization CEA, looks back on the Fukushima disaster and what it changes (or doesn’t change) so far as the use of nuclear power is concerned, particularly in France. After recalling the lessons of earlier nuclear disasters, which led to the development of the third generation of power stations, he reminds us of the currently uncontested need to free ourselves from dependence on fossil fuels, which admittedly involves increased use of renewables, but can scarcely be envisaged without nuclear power.
Lastly, where the Fukushima disaster is concerned, Bernard Bigot shows how it was, in his view, predominantly the product of a management error, from which lessons must be drawn to improve the safety conditions of existing or projected power stations and enable the staff responsible to deliver the right response as quickly as possible when an accident occurs. In this context and given France’s high level of dependence on nuclear power, the level of use of this energy source ought not to be reduced on account of the events of March 2011.