This March, Japan commemorated the first anniversary of the Fukushima tragedy, when an unhappy combination of natural disasters led to a nuclear accident. The material and human damage was enormous and it will be decades before memories fade and the Japanese can try to forget this tragedy, which attests to the great vulnerability of – even the most advanced – economies to natural and technological risks. In the wake of the accident, there has been much debate on the pertinence of the use of nuclear fission in energy production, particularly in France. Without going over these debates once again, it is nonetheless legitimate to ask not just how well equipped we are to prevent nuclear risks, but also how the consequences of a potential nuclear disaster would be dealt with in this country.
It is this question that Guy Brassard latches on to. After reminding us of the limits of the responsibility of EDF (Électricité de France) and the state in France regarding the indemnification of the damage that would ensue from such a disaster, Brassard stresses the inadequacy of the guarantees in force and calls for the creation of a reserve fund for exceptional events. He stresses the need to mitigate the nuclear risk through a clear assessment of power stations on the basis of uniform security parameters, a publicly available economic analysis of the electricity mix, and the establishment of measures of efficiency and prudence in the use of France’s nuclear resources.
He ends by proposing a model, based on a large number of international studies, for calculating the costs of a scheme for insuring against exceptional risks. From these it emerges that a very moderate increase in the price of electricity would make it possible to set aside 100 billion euros over 18 years to meet a risk that would arise only once every century. A relatively negligible investment for the future by comparison with the cost to the public finances of such a disaster occurring.