A nuclear power plant catastrophe in France - which will affect a large part of Western Europe, if not beyond - is not a question of if, but of when. This has little to do with the intrinsic technicalities of nuclear electricity production, but a lot to the current dictates of neo-capitalist flexible accumulation.
France is very much dependent on nuclear energy and has a large number of nuclear power plants scattered all over the country (*), all owned by the French state company EDF (Electr=E9cit=E9 de France). EDF is currently th= e object of a heated privatisation debate. Whatever its outcome, the result remains the same: EDF is increasingly structured and run like a public limited company, and subjected to the 'discipline' of the market(s). Flexibility, profitability, efficiency, and competitiveness are key words here. They have displaced, if not replaced altogether, the ancient notion of public service, which was very strong in France, and near-exalted in state initiated technologicaly path-breaking enetrprises like telecoms, high speed railways - and nuclear energy. The latter had also to deal wit= h the reality of heightened risks - which have become graphically clear after the Chernobyl catastrophe. Security however has, within the neo-capitalist mode of production, been operationalised into yet another cost, to be factored within an insurance-type envelope of considerations, whose coverage and provision might well be diminished in the measure that its possibly negative (read here catastrophic) outcomes can be pushed back into the future - that is beyond, usually one, and rarely more than a few, fiscal years. EDF has already nicely absorbed these lessons from Ramonet's infamous On= e Idea System. In order to diminish costs, general maintenance has been outsourced, severing the link between everyday routine and damage control when an emergency arises (**). This has heightened the sense of=20 insecurity among the regular employees of nuclear power plants - which is already considerable at the best of times. Worse still, these are subjected to intense pressure to 'do more with less', and especially with less time - without any compensation whatsoever, all in name of increasing competition. So the 'weakest' of them - also often known as the most conscentious - commit suicide. As the - young, unsurprisingly - new CEO of the Chinon power plant (where the three suicided employees were working) admits it in today's newspeak: "ou= r sector is one where the adaptation constraints are heavy indeed". Such a rhetoric, and the attitudes and practices behind it, bode extremely ill for the future, as one can easilly guess which short-term constraints are going to trump long term concerns in the absence of extremely strict, and thus in the present conjoncture, illusory regulation. And the excuse is already, shamefully there: when the announced catastrophe will ultimately take place (next year, or next decade) (a) it could not have been avoided, given the prevailing parameters; (b) it will have been caused by human error - of the operator= s of course, not of the decision makers. If they could draw any lesson from it, one could only wish the latter would die an as horrible death as the former. But even this non-consolation will elude us. Patrice Riemens, Hoeilaart, April 5, 2007 -------- See on all this the article that triggered this post Le Monde of April 5= , 2007: "3rd suicide of an employee at the Chinon nuclear power plant since Augus= t 2006" (http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0,36-891661,0.html) (*) Nuclear energy ratio: 75% of electricity produced. Number of nuclear power plants: 56. See map at : http://www.lesverts-lorraine.org/camac/reso/franucl.htm (**) Private contractors will withdraw workers when they reach a certain level of exposure to radiation - and put them to other duties, a 'flexibility' that cannot be attained with in-house (and vastly better paid) employees. # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism, # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets # more info: [EMAIL PROTECTED] and "info nettime-l" in the msg body # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: firstname.lastname@example.org