AREVA, the French nuclear conglomorate, formerly known as Framatome, maintained close ties with the apartheid government and was responsible for the construction of Koeberg, a plant that continues to pump out toxic emissions that exceed European safety guidelines. South African Safety limits, in fact, had to be raised to accommodate the emissions of radioactive isotopes such as strontium-90 and ceasium-137, and defects in the design were thus erased with the stroke of a pen by the National Nuclear Regulator.
With a majority stake held by the French government, and with close links to Westinghouse, the other bidder, the company will be showcasing its technology, along with trade mission headed by conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy in South Africa later this year.
Areva-Framatome’s growth, according to Multinational Monitor, is rooted in the Cold War and the history of France’s Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique (CEA), a government agency set up by DeGaulle in 1945 in order to direct French nuclear research and develop an independent French nuclear weapons capability. Framatome’s licensing relationship with the U.S.’s Westinghouse Corporation apparently played a central role in France’s strategy of gaining access to U.S. reactor technology and integrating it with the centerpiece of France’s self-reliant nuclear program, the fast breeder reactor.
In 1975, Framatome negotiated the first major sale of a French-made nuclear reactor – to the Iranian government under the Shah. The $1.2 billion contract for two 900 megawatt power stations reportedly included supplying fuel reprocessing technology. However, the units were never built and the contract was eventually cancelled in 1979 following the Shah’s overthrow.
Barely five months later, Framatome won a contract to build South Africa’s first nuclear power reactors at Koeberg, edging out Westinghouse. Under terms of the seven-year contract, Framatome and two other French companies agreed to provide the nuclear technology, equipment, and fuel rods for two 950 megawatt units. ESKOM supplied the enriched uranium for the rods and funded construction. Financing came directly from the South African government and indirectly from transnational bank purchases of ESKOM bonds.
Areva’s projects have been marked by hefty cost-overuns and inexplicable delays. The company is busy constructing Finland‘s fifth reactor in Olkiluoto, since 2005. The reactor, which is one of the first of the new, third generation reactors (EPR – European Pressurized Reactor), was supposed to begin producing electricity in 2009, but the project has been delayed because of technical difficulties and quality problems. In August, 2007 the production start was postponed to 2010-2011 and the new plant is expected to cost over 3 billion euros.
In December 1982, the start-up of Koeberg was delayed when the reactor’s control system was damaged by bombs planted by MK. Despite growing resistance to nuclear power, the ANC-NNP alliance recently announced an expanded nuclear programme, in part due to pressure from the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) a nefarious organisation made-up of nuclear interests which include Washington Group International and the World Nuclear Association.
The French government has been accused of ditry tricks and skullduggery in its efforts to silence its critics. On July 10 1985, French agents blew-up the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior whist docked in the Port of Auckland, New Zealand, in retaliation against the group’s campaign against nuclear testing on Muruaua.
An entry in Wikipedia tells it this way: One of the twelve people on board, photographer Fernando Pereira, returned to the ship after the first explosion to attempt to retrieve his equipment, and was killed when the ship was sunk by a second larger explosion.The New Zealand Police immediately initiated a murder inquiry into the sinking. With the assistance of the New Zealand public and an intense media focus the police quickly established the movements of all of the bombers. On July 12 two of the six bombers, posing as Swiss tourists and carrying Swiss passports, who had operated under orders were found and arrested.
At trial they pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were eventually sentenced to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. Most of the others were identified and three were interviewed by the New Zealand Police on Norfolk Island – an Australian territory – where they had escaped in the yacht Ouvea. They were not arrested due to lack of forensic evidence that was necessary to satisfy the Australian authorities. Ouvea subsequently sailed, ostensibly for Nouméa, but was scuttled en route with the personnel transferring to a French naval vessel. Most of the DGSE members remained in French government service.
In September 1985 the French minister of defense Charles Hernu resigned and prime minister Laurent Fabius admitted, on television, that agents of the French secret service had sunk the boat on orders.
After the conviction and imprisonment of the two French agents, France threatened to block New Zealand exports to the European Economic Community (EEC) unless the two were released. In June 1986, in a political deal with the then Prime Minister of New Zealand David Lange and presided over by the United Nations Secretary-General, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, France agreed to pay compensation of NZ$13 million (USD$6.5 million) to New Zealand and ‘apologise’, in return for which Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur would be detained at the French military base on Hao atoll for three years. However, the two spies had both returned to France by May 1988, after less than two years on the atoll, Mafart having ostensibly travelled to France for medical treatment (without returning at the conclusion of the treatment) and Prieur having become pregnant after her husband had been allowed to join her.
In 1987, under heavy international pressure, the French government paid $8.16 million compensation to Greenpeace. In 2005 Admiral Pierre Lacoste, head of DGSE at the time, admitted that the death weighed heavily on his conscience and said that the aim of the operation had not been to kill. He acknowledged the existence of three teams: the crew of the yacht, reconnaissance and logistics (those successfully prosecuted), plus a two-man team that carried out the actual bombing and whose identities have never been officially confirmed.
In September 2006 the French newspaper Le Parisien identified Gérard Royal, brother to the Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, as being the person who actually planted the limpet mines, but this statement appeared to be wrong, Royal being only part of the logistic team as known for a long time. On the twentieth anniversary of the sinking it was also revealed that the French president François Mitterrand, himself, had given authorisation for the bombing.
Also, in 2005 following release of UK government papers, it was confirmed that the French government tried to use French media to imply that the UK‘s MI6 was involved in the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.