The consumer defense association UFC-Que Choisir expressed its “opposition” to the government project to reorganize nuclear safety on Tuesday, denouncing “unnecessary risk-taking” and calling for the project to be abandoned. “Even though Parliament had ruled out the principle of merging these two institutions as part of the vote on the nuclear acceleration bill last April, the Government plans to discuss it again within the framework of a project specific law this fall. The UFC-Que Choisir is already expressing its opposition to this initiative,” the association indicated in a press release.
A bill is being prepared, aiming to merge the Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), the sector expert who gives opinions, into the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), which decides the fate of central offices based in particular on these opinions. Since February, IRSN employees, supported by elected officials and nuclear experts, have been up in arms against this merger project, fearing that it would lead to a loss of independence. The UFC-Que Choisir takes up certain criticisms from IRSN employees, considering that the dual nature of the system “has proven itself” and that the integration of the IRSN into the ASN “would come back (.. .) to place the weight of decisions on the Institute in charge of the expertise, constituting pressure on the results produced.
If the government justified this project by the desire to “fluidify” decisions, particularly in the face of an increase in activity, taking into account the relaunch of nuclear power, the UFC-Que Choisir believes on the contrary that “this new work would necessarily be slowed down in the context of a reorganization which would undermine both structures and lead to a regression in the short term. She calls for “the strengthening of the workforce which should make it possible to cope with these developments”. The association emphasizes that the French workforce is particularly low, "550 people for 56 nuclear reactors, when the Canadian safety authority has, for example, 670 people for 19 reactors", it mentions, relying on the report of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST) of July 11, 2023.
“In order not to undermine a balanced institutional regime in view of the various challenges that the nuclear sector will face, the UFC-Que Choisir therefore asks the public authorities to abandon this project which would constitute unnecessary risk-taking,” she concludes.