By Dr. Russell Chianelli, The University of Texas at El Paso, MRTI
In spite of the recent Japanese nuclear accident, France’s nuclear power program continues in force. As reported in the Energy Quarterly section of the June issue of MRS Bulletin, France decided to expand its nuclear program shortly after the oil crisis in 1974, while simultaneously reducing its use of coal. The country shut down its coal mining industry in 2004. Currently, 75% of their electric power comes from 58 nuclear reactors. France is now the largest exporter of electric power in the world, and it has the lowest CO2 emissions per capita of any country. Also, their nuclear efficiency is improving with each generation of reactor designs. These are just some of the reasons why France continues to heavily pursue nuclear energy.1
As a frequent visitor to France, I can attest to the beauty of the French countryside and the popularity of nuclear reactors because of low-cost electricity and clean air. The Energy Quarterly section of the June issue of MRS Bulletin also discusses advances in fuel processing, reactor design, and waste disposal issues in France.