Anne Lauvergeon, chief executive officer of AREVA, a company that provides complete fuel cycle services, nuclear reactor design, and construction for the nuclear energy industry internationally, offers her perspective on how to satisfy growing global energy needs while decreasing carbon dioxide emissions, protecting natural resources, and maintaining price stability and competition.
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: Good afternoon. If I could have your attention, we -- we'll get the program started, knowing that we want every -- keep everyone on time. And we have a fascinating topic to be discussed today with a very interesting person to do it.
Let me just run through the basics that I -- with which I think most of you are familiar. This is a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations CEO Speaker Series. We ask you to completely turn off any of those wonderful electronic devices that we all go around with. Don't just put them on vibrate, because we are transmitting this to the offices in Washington and we don't want anything to interfere with that process, so if you could turn them completely off.
We are going to -- this is on the record, today's meeting, so we understand that. We will have a presentation and the usual conversation, followed by questions and answers from the audience. And when we get to that, I will ask you to please identify yourselves, step up -- I mean, stand up, identify yourself and try to keep you question to one, instead of a multifacet of questions.
We are very fortunate to have the CEO of Areva with us today. Anne Lauvergeon, you have her resume, so I'm not going to go into it. But Areva is a multinational; it's in a hundred companies (sic), 58 -- 50,000 -- 48(,000) to 50,000 employees, involved in nuclear and green power, renewable power. It is a company that is growing. It is a company that is actually setting the standard for transparency, safety and exploring new ways of providing power that enables us to clean our environment at the same time of assuring the ability to have economic growth in an affordable way.
Madame Lauvergeon is someone who has basically started the company, she -- in 2001, and has seen it grow to -- we -- what's your -- 2011 first quarter earnings were just under 2 billion euro, as I recall. It's -- she is the perfect person to be talking about a subject that is of enormous interest to all of us not just because of what's happened in Japan but also because this country is facing the challenge of something that we desperately need and have not had yet in this country, which is called a -- an energy policy. We need one, and I can think of no one better to talk about how that policy might look, what the future for nuclear and for green power is than today's speaker.
And with that I will turn it over to Madame Lauvergeon. (Applause.)
ANNE LAUVERGEON: Governor Whitman, dear Christine, dear Richard, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it's a real pleasure and a great honor for me to be here today with you in New York. And I would like to sincerely thank the Council on Foreign Relations for its invitation.
Today, we are here to talk about our energy future. That was the request, so I'm going to try to answer to it. It's always a challenge to speak about the future. It is all the more challenging when ongoing events bring us back to the harshness of reality. That is why my first words and thoughts are for our Japanese friends, who are still mourning the human losses and destruction caused by a natural disaster of exceptional intensity. The courage and composure of the Japanese people while facing this tragedy warrants both respect and admiration.
One of the consequences of this natural disaster is a very difficult situation we all know about at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Also, no casualties has been resulting to date.
Today, we at Areva are alongside the Japanese authorities and TEPCO crew at their request in this crisis. TEPCO has selected our solution to decontaminate the water in the plant. And we are proposing very innovative solutions to manage the radioactivity, the spent fuel located in the reactors and in the pools at Fukushima. More than 100 of our colleagues are currently working day by day with Japan, with TEPCO, to work precisely on that. And this figure is going to increase in the coming weeks.
As you see, emergency actions are our priority. There will be some technical lessons, of course, learned from this crisis -- a major one, even if it is a simple one is to secure diesel generators in case of blackouts, and of course, to have (diesel ?) not at the level of the ground but higher than it was.
(May I say ?) -- and, of course, it's difficult to say it now, but that our new generation of reactors -- EPR, Atmea -- we are developing with Mitsubishi, or Kerena we are developing with EON -- all the features are redundant, independent. And of course -- and I was sometimes criticized for that. Some people have said that EPR, Atmea, Kerena, it is over-safe, they are over-safe. Of course (diesels ?) are very high. Diesels are in bunkers, concrete bunkers, which are totally protected from water and also antiseismic.
But it shows that in nuclear, when you speak about nuclear, you are never over-safe. And I can say that now EPR, Atmea or Kerena would have resisted such the tsunami waves.
What Fukushima proves is what I have always believed in despite some criticisms, as I said. Our energy choices, our energy future, must be built on the basic triangle made by safety, security and transparence. This is true for nuclear energy, of course, but as shown by -- last year by the Deepwater accident, I am deeply convinced that it is true for any energy project. Those are the core values I have put in Areva's DNA since I created this company -- we created this company 10 years ago. Safety and security must always come first. It means building power plants according to the highest available safety standards and promoting the most stringent safety and security criteria for all our facilities; safety, security, as a result, of course, of a robust design, a deep-rooted structure and an efficient organization system.
What people also demand is more dialogue and transparence. When I joined the nuclear industry 13 years ago, I decided to install webcams -- webcams at that time -- in our La Hague recycling plant. I opened up the doors and windows of what was then perceived by public opinion as a bunker, but in a bad interpretation.
We have since engaged in a continuous dialogue with all our stakeholders, including opponents to nuclear energy. We don't choose our opponents, so you have to discuss with them too.
We will continue this dialogue as we have always done. We will continue to participate in the debate on energy choices. We will do it more than ever. We face exceptional circumstances, but we should not forget the structural challenges we have to tackle. Energy security, access to affordable and competitive energy, unavoidable lower CO2 emissions -- the fundamentals of the energy choices have not changed after Fukushima.
In the United States, the third most populated country in the world and the largest, by far, energy consumer in the world, you certainly know better than any other country that we have to answer this key question: how to satisfy our growing energy needs safely at a stable and competitive price while decreasing our CO2 emissions and protecting our natural resources.
In solving this equation, we need to be realistic and creative. Being realistic means facing the truth by assessing the situation as it is. The U.S. is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The prices are very volatile; yet stable and low energy prices are essential to long-term economic growth.
Being realistic also means utilizing all possible means to ensure a sustainable energy future: increasing energy efficiency, optimizing the use of energy, promoting R&D in new technologies, and developing all low-carbon energy sources. We cannot afford being selective.
Being creative means preparing for the future by thinking long term. It means making the necessary investments technologically, industrially and human resources-wise, and doing it now. We can't make our energy choices by focusing on short-term trends when we are building electricity generation plants which will operate for decades.
Being creative also means abandoning sterile ideological stances and false debates opposing nuclear and renewables. Today renewable generation supplies 3 percent of U.S. electricity, but there is a great potential for growth, especially for wind, solar, biomass. However, renewables are intermittent. They cannot do the job alone. Nuclear power is a baseload energy which generates electricity continuously. This is why we need both. They are complementary. For this reason, Areva is currently developing the new integrative business model of clean energy parks, combining both energy sources to provide clean generation.
In the U.S., as in Europe, nuclear energy is still an emotional issue, but in order to make the right energy choices for ourselves and our children and our countrymen, we need to look at the facts. As John Adams said two centuries ago, facts are stubborn. Let's review them.
First fact: Nuclear energy remains the safest technology to produce huge amounts of baseload energy. And the new generation of reactors, the third generation plus, like EPR, like Atmea, like Kerena, are safer, drawing experience from crisis like TMI, Chernobyl and September 11th.
For example, if I take the EPR, whatever happens inside the reactor building stays inside. Whatever happens outside stays outside, even large commercial airplane crashing.
Second fact: Nuclear energy is reliable and contributes to energy security. Uranium is well distributed around the world, and conventional resources amount to 200 times the annual demand. With the recycling of nuclear used fuel, resources expand significantly.
Third fact: Nuclear energy is carbon free. It supplies nearly 75 percent of the nation's emission-free electricity.
Fourth fact: There are available proven and reliable solutions to nuclear waste. We can safely -- and we do it in Areva -- recycle 96 percent, 96 percent, of the spent fuel.
Fifth fact: Nuclear energy is competitive. It is the lowest-cost baseload generation technology available, even before a significant price on carbon. Building a nuclear plant represents an important investment, but once the power plant is built, the cost of electricity is extremely stable and predictable for 60 years.
Nuclear energy supports a nation's economic growth. Most of the money spent of -- for nuclear plant construction is spent domestically. It means thousands of highly qualified jobs for many years.
At Areva we are not just talking about a safe, secure and sustainable energy future for the U.S.; we are helping to make it happen, with $4 billion invested in projects in Idaho, for a new enrichment plant, and Virginia, for a Navy components facility.
Because launching a nuclear program does not only mean building new plants, it means building an industry, providing wealth and jobs in the long run, ladies and gentlemen, when it is about energy, you and I understood that is -- there is no silver bullet. Sorry to say that. Maybe it's a little bit disappointing, but that's the situation. Each country's energy choices depend on its history, its experience, its needs, its constraints, whether political or economic.
But two key lessons are, in my view, universal. First, there cannot be energy -- any energy policy without a strong and consistent political will, necessary to frame long-term and readable regulation, as well as to attract long-term investments.
The second lesson is about public debate and transparency. Energy issues are too serious to be managed by specialists only. We are all concerned. We are talking about nothing less than running and winning the race against climate change and energy security, nothing less than building the clean energy future for the U.S. and for the world.
I therefore look forward to discussing further these views and answering to all of your question you may ask. Thank you for your attention. (Applause.)
WHITMAN: Well, thank you very much for sharing some of your expertise with us.
A couple of questions to start us off, on nuclear particularly. You mentioned reprocessing and what you're doing at Areva. If you have 97 fissionable material left in the rods and you can get it down to 2 to 3 percent, you're left, it is my understanding, with highly enriched plutonium. Steps now -- and I think you've made some progress in this -- have been made to ensure that that is never weapons grade. Can you walk us through a little bit some of the changes in what's going on in reprocessing?
LAUVERGEON: That's very important, because reprocessing is not sufficient. If you separate into spent fuel the uranium, you can recycle, and you have the plutonium in your hands, it's not good.
So what we are doing, it's systematically to recycle. So we're recycling the plutonium, so we transform -- we mix up the plutonium with some depleted uranium, and at the end, you have the new -- a new fuel.
And what we have done is to -- what we have made, what we have done in -- historically, in La Hague and in MELOX, we have recycled, as I said, 96 percent of the spent fuel, not only for France but also for Belgium, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, for a lot of these seven countries -- Germany and so on and so on.
And we have transformed and we have recreated new capacity of power in this -- in La Hague, for instance, the equivalent of the production of oil in Kuwait during one year.
So it means that what you have in your pools in the U.S. -- you have a lot of spent fuel coming from the production of your nuclear plants for now since the beginning of the '60s. So you have the equivalent of seven years of fuel in your pools if it was recycled. So we are totally against -- ourselves, we are against the separation of plutonium and to keep the plutonium. This plutonium is not very good for the -- for weapons. It's not a good isotope for weapons. But we are systematically recycling this plutonium into new fuel and it is burned into other nuclear plants. (I understand ?) that we did it in the U.S. for the first time after the agreement between U.S. and Russia --
WHITMAN: Russia, yes.
LAUVERGEON: -- to decrease a little bit the level of plutonium-grade weapons and so on; for the first time for ourselves because we didn't know this plutonium, this very specific plutonium. We were able to recycle this plutonium into a new fuel, and we did it with Duke in the U.S. And we are in an ongoing way to build up a facility in the U.S. to make it systematically, so to transform military plutonium, weapon-grade plutonium, into a fuel for nuclear plants.
WHITMAN: Twenty percent of our nuclear power actually comes from those reprocessed warheads.
LAUVERGEON: Absolutely. So reprocessing for us it means automatically recycling.
WHITMAN: And the life span of what's left, as I understand, is dramatically less than what you have to worry about with the rods as they currently --
LAUVERGEON: At the end, you have only 4 percent of the original spent fuel. The remaining 4 percent, we work a lot to make them disappear too, and to make sure that everything is going to be burned. "Alors," in laboratory, we know how to do it, so we know how to make this last 4 percent -- how to make them disappear. But we don't know how to do it in this (reality ?) stage.
WHITMAN: Haven't done that yet.
LAUVERGEON: But that's our target.
WHITMAN: What do you see, as we read a lot here about Germany, particularly, and its reaction post-Fukushima and Daiichi, and England was in the process of looking at nuclear, at bringing more nuclear on -- there's been a slowdown in everything, as there has been here. But we still see, as I had mentioned, as of April 4th in a Gallup poll, we have 58 percent of the American people still believe nuclear should be part of our future. But what do you see as the real future for nuclear in Europe at this point in time?
LAUVERGEON: I think that the reactions in the different countries throughout the world have been very, very different after Fukushima. A lot of countries have reacted in a very rational way, I may say, saying, okay, it's a real Japanese disaster, but with some specific origins like, a big one, earthquake, plus a tsunami; we don't have tsunami in our country or we can be protected from possible tsunamis by dams and so on and so on.
In some other countries it was very, very emotional, like in Germany. So in Germany it's a very political issue, very sensitive issue. We have to understand the emotions, also. Of course it was also at a political period of time which was very, very crucial. I was in Germany just before an important election in Baden-Wurttemberg, where the coalition of power was in a tough, I may say, competition. And so it was 10 days before, and also in a period of time where Mrs. Merkel, Chancellor Merkel decided in favor of lifetime extension of the existing nuclear plants after a period of time where the decision was to close the existing nuclear plants.
So the political decision was to close for a period of time -- nobody knows how long it will be -- the seven oldest nuclear plants in Germany. RWE, one of the utilities in charge of those nuclear plants, have decided to sue the German government, so I don't know what the future in Germany is going to be.
In the (metrics ?) of the other countries, I myself think the reactions have been OK. We have safety authorities. We are going to check -- to check up the existing nuclear plants, if they are at the appropriate level of safety, if the lessons learned from Fukushima can be applied fully in our country.
But I think that in many, many countries you -- in Europe, for instance, you mentioned Great Britain. Great Britain, they decide for a -- (inaudible) -- of (check-up ?), and afterwards they say that they want to continue, and the prime minister was very loud and clear on that. Central and Eastern Europe's (in sync ?), France (in sync ?), New Zealand, all the Nordic states, including Finland. So I think that globally, in Western Europe and in Central and Eastern Europe, the reactions are arguably (harsher now ?).
WHITMAN: You've taken Areva into the area of renewables as being green. I like green power, too -- (except for nuclear ?) -- but renewables. As you mentioned, in this country, it's a small fraction right now of our overall power. If we're looking at a 28 percent increase in electricity demand by 2035, which is the projection of the Department of Energy, how realistic do you think it is to think that we can meet even a significant part of that with the renewables as we now know them?
LAUVERGEON: I am really convinced that if you -- if you want to develop an energy policy, you need to have a long-term framework. You -- for new energies -- and, you know, I am not shocked by that. You have had a lot of criticisms coming from different origins, saying that it is not -- it is not good to subsidize the development of renewables. Of course, it has not to be too artificial.
And it has to be transparent. So people have to know that those energies are subsidized and so on. It has to be done in a -- in a transparent way. But I am not shocked by -- myself, to start the process, to encourage this process, to have the appropriate framework and to organize, subsidize.
The one way to make it, in my view, is to not -- is not to be transparent. For instance, in -- it's like in Germany. Germany, you have a system which is highly subsidized for solar, for wind and so on. And people are not aware of it. So it means that at the end, people think that it is less expensive to develop the solar or wind than to develop coal, hydro or nuclear, which is -- which is totally wrong. So I think that if you -- if you want to develop this 3 percent in -- of renewables in the energy mix of -- in the U.S., you have to organize a long-term framework in a transparent way to say that it's -- it is still starting.
And it has not to be too (lonely ?) as it is. I think that all the energy, if you start -- if you think to oil, to coal, to gas, to nuclear -- at the beginning, we have been helped by the different governments. So it's not shocking to do it like that for renewables, but in a transparent way and for some -- for a period of time, not for the eternity -- especially also because we have also very difficult budgets in our country.
WHITMAN: Where are you -- and just a last question before I open it up to the audience. Where are you at Areva in developing and enhancing the technology for the storage of the power generated by the renewables? Because that's obviously the big challenge.
And also the other side of that is, particularly for wind power, the physical size of what's needed for a wind power field to produce the same amount of power as an average nuclear reactor is some 210,000 acres. Where are we in that -- in that -- moving that forward so that we get -- so we can store the power and we get them to be more efficient?
LAUVERGEON: It's a very tough -- it's a very tough issue, except I'd hope -- all the renewables are intermittent. And so Edison invented a lot of things, but not the storage of electricity. And for one century, we are -- we are short on that. We don't know how to store electricity in a cheap way. So it's very frustrating.
And I love to say it would be my dream for Areva to find the way to store the electricity -- (chuckles) -- in a very cheap way. It would -- it would change everything.
So we have a company, ourselves, called (Edion ?), which works especially on that. We -- it's still expensive to store electricity, but we ought to decrease its price step by step. But no, it's -- to store electricity now, it means you have to spend 10 times the price of electricity, something like that.
So it's really frustrating. The day we are going to solve this issue, it will -- it will be the breakthrough in our -- in our business.
WHITMAN: I'd like to open it up now to the audience. And again, I would ask you to please stand and state your relationship and your question and try to keep it to one question.
We'll start at the back of the room over there. Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Hajime Matsuura, senior columnist, Japan's Sankei news.
I'd appreciate if you could talk about post Fukushima, how the landscape of global competition among a manufacturer like Areva or Toshiba or GE have changed and how you are trying to capture this Japanese crisis as a business opportunity.
LAUVERGEON: I think that the situation after Fukushima is -- well, first, I think that our first duty -- and when I say "our" first duty, you could say it's the duty of the Japanese government, the duty of TEPCO and that's it. No. I think that it is our first duty is to solve this issue, this issue in Fukushima first, to stabilize Fukushima, to make sure that nothing bad could happen again in Fukushima. So I think that that's our first duty.
The -- at the second level, I think that we were -- before Fukushima, innovation of new nuclear for everybody, for -- you know, very easily. And I heard a lot of people explaining that, oh, second-generation reactors are very good -- (audio break) -- low-cost, low-safety nuclear for new countries and so on and so on.
Never I have been comfortable with this kind of concept. Nuclear is not for everybody, first. And secondly, nuclear means -- safety and security comes former to design the organization and the structure. If you are in a new country for nuclear, by definition, the level of culture and organization is -- cannot be compared to a country where you have nuclear for 30 or 40 years like in the U.S.
So to say, okay, we are going to sell to these countries designs, with some of the best ones -- the best available ones, it's not serious. And I refused myself to sell nuclear plants in those conditions. I said no. We have to sell the highest standards in this domain, especially for new countries. And I was heavily criticized for that. I said no, no, no, no, we cannot compromise on that.
And of course, the existing nuclear fleet, we can always modernize them. We can modernize it, we can optimize it, we can do the best what we can, what we know how to do it. For instance, we are -- I could -- all the people had in mind, you know, the explosion of hydrogen in Fukushima. You know, that's very easy to avoid it. We have recombiners of hydrogen available. Do you know how much it costs for one nuclear plant? Ten million dollars. It's ridiculous.
So I think that nuclear post Fukushima is safety, security, transparency first. And for new countries -- and you know, new countries waiting to develop nuclear have not been stopped -- not at all -- by Fukushima. But when I have private -- I have a lot of private meetings with them, with different bodies on that. Now they are convinced, and I am much more comfortable with this conviction -- safety, security first -- which is for us and for the world a very good piece of news.
WHITMAN: Again, in the back. In the back. The microphones will come to you. Yeah.
QUESTIONER: Virginie Robert, Les Echos French Daily. I have two questions for you. The first one is, when do you think you'll be able to announce the sale of a new EPR, in what time frame? And the second one is about prices. There's going to be heightened security and heightened measures. Is this going to erode the competitivity (sic) of nuclear?
LAUVERGEON: Yeah, I could start by your second question. You have -- and it's a normal -- I may say it's a normal (bargain ?) between the utilities and the different (CFTC ?) authorities of government to say, of course, modernization, upgrading of the existing nuclear plant, it has a cost; don't make crazy things, and so on and so on. But as I said to you, when we speak about recombiners of (phytogen ?), look at the price. Of course, maybe it's going to be -- it's a bit more expensive because all the people want to have recombiners now. (Chuckles.)
But, you know, you have a lot of example showing that it is -- it's not so -- and you have the precise answer in the U.S. When at the end of the '90s, especially also during this decade, in United States a lot of utilities have decided to request lifetime extension of the existing nuclear seeds. The NRC asked, (however ?) systematically, to the utilities to modernize, to upgrade the existing nuclear plant with new vessel heads, new (INCs ?) and so on and so on. Did it change the -- did it change the price of electricity? It's -- I think that it can be absorbed. We don't speak about, you know, big, big, big, big (change ?). So, no, it doesn't change the electricity price.
On your second question -- or your first question -- about new EPRs, I hope as soon as possible, so -- to be for Les Echos first, if you want. (Laughter.)
WHITMAN: Over here.
QUESTIONER: I'm Scott Sagan, from Stanford University. In addition to modern safety and security, individuals are concerned about safeguards as a third criteria for the positive spread of nuclear power. You have said often that Areva will never sell to a country that's not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but what about other advanced safeguards, such as the additional protocol of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or insisting that a country must have Type 66 safeguards, which do not lapse if a country withdraws from the treaty? Will Areva, and you individually, lead the way so that countries will not receive nuclear power plants unless they have -- they have safeguards?
LAUVERGEON: For us, we think first that nuclear industry has a very important role to play in today's international game. So it means that we are not only an industry waiting for decisions coming from the states; we are also very productive in this manner. So it means that we are a part of different initiatives to control the spread of -- not only of nuclear plants, but also nuclear activities into the cycle, enrichment and so on. So we are very, very careful to that.
Why are we so careful? Because we think that first we have only one image and one reputation. The day this reputation is going to be damaged, it would be for long, long period of time. We are number one in Europe; we are number one in the U.S.; we are very present in Asia. So we have to be -- we have to integrate, I may say, all these policies.
So we are not only -- I (missed ?) that sometimes, as I -- I was criticized to be over-safe. I am also sometimes more cautious than some governments. And so for this reason, for instance, I was myself totally against to sell some nuclear plants, despite my business interest, to some country, even if it was at the period of time seen as good.
So we are in this domain very, very reluctant to make something even if a country is perfectly -- even with additional protocol and so on. We have to think long term. When you sell a nuclear plant, it's for the next 60 years. So it means that you have to make sure that the country has a proper safety authority, with people able to make the work in a proper way and so on and so on.
So we are maybe overcautious -- maybe. But I think in this domain you are never overcautious too.
WHITMAN: There. The microphone's coming.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'm Jacques Meunier with McKinsey here in New York. I have a question about talent and China. So one of the issues when you look where the plants have been constructed over the last couple of years, it's mainly in China, and you can argue that the skills, the nuclear skills, the skills for, you know, the concrete -- the plants have been developed there. Do you see a risk, you know, 10, 15 years from now that the skill in this country, the skills in Europe will -- (no more ?) there? And therefore, what do you do you do about that?
LAUVERGEON: As I said to you, we are number one in U.S., number one in Europe, at present in Asia, with this idea to have a global framework, a global cover of all this -- this on continents.
As you said rightly, China has decided in favor of a very important plan for new nuclear at the Chinese (state ?), which is always another (skill ?), and we are deeply involved in this -- in this plant. China, you know, has experienced a lot of different designs. Somebody said to me that there are 14 different designs, existing ones and new possible ones, better designs.
We have built directly, indirectly a lot of nuclear plants in China. We have a lot of Chinese people in our -- in our system. We have joint ventures with Chinese (bodies ?), joint ventures in different (ports ?) of the -- in engineering, with a company, so-called -- so called by the Chinese -- (we can ?). So it's a -- and we have also joint ventures in primary firms of -- in different -- in different (spaces ?).
So we have a lot of Chinese colleagues now in the company. China is going to play an increasing role in nuclear. That's absolutely clear. But if you look what we have done ourself, we have recruited 26,000 new people in the U.S., in Western Europe, in Central and Eastern Europe, during the last three years. So we have a lot -- we have trained them. We are very attractive now for young people, which is a very good piece of news for us, to attract very good engineers. When people say, for instance, it's impossible to find engineers in the U.S. or in Europe, we don't have this experience. It's -- we have very talented people.
So I think that we are going to have more and more Chinese colleagues, but at the same time I am not concerned by the lack of resources in Europe and in the U.S.
So -- going to be a balance. But maybe behind your question you have another question, which is how to -- and then for me, that's the question of the U.S. or question of Europe. When you are in competition -- we are in a global competition, but when you are in competition with China, with India, of course we are not going to be competitive in terms of wages. We are not going to be competitive in terms of pensions. We are not going to be competitive in terms of environmental conditions.
So if we are also not competitive in terms of electricity price, wow. What is going to be our future?
QUESTIONER: Richard Thoman, Corporate Perspectives and Columbia University. I wondered if -- you talked of the importance of a long-term energy policy. I wondered if you could sketch out your view of what that would look like for the United States. And then secondly, given the fact that I think we're in a uniquely fear-driven environment, between the nuclear concerns from Japan, the BD (ph) concerns of offshore drilling, the unknown shale oil environmental concerns, the concerns that we feel about a Canadian pipeline for natural gas, is it even conceivable we could actually have such a policy in a world of those kind of fears?
LAUVERGEON: As I said, I think that you have no silver bullet in the energy mix. You can criticize all the South Seas and so on. So we need diversification. We need diversity into the energy mix.
On energy policy, I think that in the U.S. you are very well placed, because historically you have been always obsessed by energy. Energy policy -- foreign energy policy, it's in the DNA of the U.S. Look at the relationship with Saudi Arabia. You have it in DNA, much better than Europe. Europe, energy: "Oh, if I have the time, yes, maybe one day." China is obsessed by that. Russia is obsessed by energy.
So I think while of course you are much better placed than me to -- much best place than me to say that, but I think that you have to re-create in the U.S. rules. You have invented nuclear here. Why the industry -- this industry has disappeared or almost disappeared?
So I think that the reindustrialization of our nation is a key issue, this idea that, okay, we are going to have a future in our country, but without industry and it's not an important issue; industry is going to take place in China, in India, and that's not important, we have the brains. No, it doesn't work like that.
So I an (intimately ?) convinced that if we want to have a future, we need industry. And if we want industry, we need to have an energy policy.
WHITMAN: It doesn't get to the question of whether it's possible or not until we get over our politics. Every particular subject, we're going to have politics.
LAUVERGEON: And of course it -- I think energy policy has also to be a consensus in the country, because you cannot change an energy policy every four years. It's absolutely impossible. You need to have 20 or 25, 30 years ahead of you, so you need to have a bilateral consensus to say, okay, on that we do agree.
That's a strength, for instance, in Great Britain -- in Great Britain they are very clear, all of them, about the energy policy. What a strength.
QUESTIONER: Paul Richards from Columbia University. In your remarks you spoke of the merits of transparency. And on the question of degree, my question is, is there a change of policy here in this matter? And perhaps (to fix ?) ideas, there would be the concept of radionuclide monitoring network whose data would be publicly available and which would be good enough even to give information on the state of health of nuclear reactors. That's a level of transparency which it's my understanding has not been comfortably thought about in your country.
LAUVERGEON: In the U.S.?
QUESTIONER: In France.
QUESTIONER: Well, that's my question.
LAUVERGEON: I don't know -- the level of transparency in France -- if we go back to the '60s, it was in France -- or to the '70s, it was in France, like in the other countries in the Western World. So it means, okay, nuclear is made for specialists, it's a matter among a few number of politicians, a few number of experts, a few number of industrialists and that's it. It has totally changed. So it means that now the (CFTC ?) authority is fully independent.
And I must say it's very severe. So we like to complain often. (Chuckles.) But I think that it is excellent because we need to have independent bodies able to do and to decide whatever they want, including to close a nuclear plant, including to close a nuclear installation, including to set everything about what we do. And now it's really a situation that's totally changed in this matter. And I think it is excellent. It's -- (I mean ?), some days we are -- (groans) -- ourselves -- (inaudible). That's normal.
And when people within the company are complaining and they say, oh, that's totally unfair, they put on the website that, they made a public declaration on: That's nice. That's normal life. No, no, I do think that it is really the prerequisite for nuclear and that new countries for nuclear have to develop exactly the same kind of things in a very transparent way. Of course, during the good days it's -- (inaudible) -- and during the bad days, it's difficult to accept it. But that's good. No, no, I do -- I do think that democracy in this domain is key.
QUESTIONER: Todd Johnson from FRE (ph) Consultancy. I'm wondering, rightly or wrongly, your experience, Areva's experience in Finland, is often pointed to in the press as an example of the major bureaucratic and costing hurdles that face advanced reactor designs. And I'm wondering if you could comment on some of the lessons learned from that experience and maybe correct, in your mind, some of the misconceptions from the Finland experience. Thank you.
LAUVERGEON: Not misconception, but we -- "bon," that was the first -- the first of the kind of this third generation-plus reactor built up in Finland, built up in Europe, built up in the world. So when you have the first of a kind -- after 27 years without any construction in Finland -- so we have -- we are going to visit this nuclear plant. We are fortunately at the end of this process in 92 months, which is compared to the -- (inaudible) -- of for instance the average of construction in the U.S., for (civil generation ?) -- so a smaller one and a simpler one. The average, I think, is 110 months on average. So for the first of the kind, we are going to do it in 22 months.
Number four -- (inaudible) -- we are building up in China. We are going to build them in 46 months. And it's 1,600 megawatts, so compared to 1,000 megawatts of second generation, so it's much bigger.
Forty-six months without -- you know, we are also -- we have also lessons learned. We have some -- we have simplified the design. We have learned a lot from also the experience of the Chinese, especially in (civil ?) works. They are excellent. I have to say that. They are cheaper -- (inaudible). And so -- but we are now comfortable.
For number -- fifth and number six we are like that. So, "bon." But the first one is going to cost us some -- but we have taken all the provisions. And we hope that our customer is going to spontaneously give us the money for that.
QUESTIONER: My name is Wade Green. I work for the Rockefeller family and associates. I've been doing research and advising on philanthropy mainly in energy issues for several decades now.
And the -- I was very -- I came here particularly to hear a view I don't hear a lot, because I travel partly in alternative energy circles here, and so I'm glad to hear it directly. I -- there is a body of analysis, some of which my principals have supported, that says you can do it without -- energy efficiency and renewables can do the whole job without nuclear, without coal for that matter. Nobody's mentioned coal, but coal is often posed by the nuclear industry as (another ?) specter out there with which the nuclear industry claims to be a better alternative, which I probably would agree with.
The -- Frank von Hippel, who is a very prominent expert at Princeton on both nuclear energy and nuclear arms, was quoted in his -- well, he quote -- he said in his op-ed piece in the Times a few weeks ago that it will be 25 years before another nuclear plant will be built in this country. The head of Exelon, the largest single operator of nuclear plants in this country, says there will be no new nuclear plants for a long time, especially with the price of gas as low as it is.
So is your company in fact hedging its bets by moving more into what I would call greener areas, as is Exelon itself, which -- it was just announced, talking about merging really I would consider a greener renewables company. Is that not what's -- partly what's happening and -- or do you really see, especially post Japan, that the U.S. is going to increase its nuclear capacity or even be able to sustain some of it that's already there?
LAUVERGEON: You know, I'm not going to distrust your opinion and your analysis, but I think that first, our customers have to make the decisions. So ourselves, we have an offer. I think that our offer has to be as good as possible, as -- with the best technologies -- available technologies, the best services and so on.
So we have this offer in nuclear. We are fully integrated in nuclear. We have all the -- we are the one-stop-shop for the utilities, starting by uranium to recycling, including the construction but also the installed (base ?), services, maintenance and so on. And we have these renewables, so we are in the offshore wind, solar, biomass and storage of electricity.
If I look (at ?) our two activities, nuclear and renewables, I may say that we are in a -- in a significant growth on both sides. So nobody can predict what is going to happen in the different parts of the world. We have this offer. We are at the services of our customers, and they are going to make choices.
So I have no capacity of prediction to say -- well, in renewables, we are -- we are finished last year -- we have achieved last year with more than 2 billion euros, also $3 billion dollars of orders in renewables. We have 46 billion euros of orders in nuclear. So our backlog is not bad -- (soft laughter) -- about 50 billion euros. So let's go. (Soft laughter.)
QUESTIONER: Well, we're (live here ?).
WHITMAN: Okay. Thank you very much. And I think it's also important to remember that all of the renewables require baseload behind them, because we haven't figured out how to store. Until we figure out how to store, we're always going to have coal, oil, gas or nuclear.
In any event, I want to thank our presenter today --
LAUVERGEON: Thank you to you.
WHITMAN: -- and thank all the members for their attention. But thank you -- (inaudible). (Applause.)
LAUVERGEON: Thank you so much -- (off mic).
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