Technology with attitude

Time To Rethink Nuclear Power?


France embraced it long ago, and it’s paying big dividends…

Because nuclear plants emit no greenhouse gases, France has the cleanest air in the industrialized world, and because the price of oil is now around $60 a barrel, it has the lowest electric bills in Europe. In fact, France has so much cheap electricity, it exports it to its European neighbors. French nuclear plants supply power to parts of Germany, Italy and help light the city of London.

Ahh yes, but what to do with the nuclear waste?

While the United States decided to store its nuclear waste, the French embraced the idea of reprocessing it. Instead of burying the spent fuel rods underground or underwater, they decided to build a massive plant on the coast of Normandy and recycle the used fuel and reuse it.

The high security facility stretches for two miles along the coast. All of France’s spent nuclear fuel eventually ends up at the plant in pools of water.

After the fuel rods have cooled five years, the French recycle them to make new fuel. The process drastically reduces the amount of nuclear waste, but one of the by-products of this is high-grade plutonium that can be used for nuclear weapons.

60 Minutes has more.