French Prime Minister François Fillon met EDF and Areva top executives on Wednesday to settle a row over nuclear fuel treatment. Critics say their clash is hampering France's ambitions to be a world leader in the atomic energy industry.
AFP - The French government on Wednesday gave energy firms Areva and EDF two weeks to settle a row over nuclear fuel treatment that had turned into an ugly public spat between France's two showcase companies.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon called in EDF's boss Henri Proglio and Areva chief executive Anne Lauvergeon for a meeting at his Matignon office to tell them that "they must act as partners, not competitors," an aide said.
The two companies have argued over the pricing of Areva's services to treat uranium waste treatment at electricity firm EDF's nuclear power stations.
Tensions had also risen after French companies lost out last month to a South Korean-led consortium for a 20-billion-dollar contract to build four nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates.
The loss was humiliating for Areva, champion of the new-generation EPR nuclear reactor, and critics cited a lack of coordination between the different French bodies involved in the bid.
The chief executives agreed during the meeting to outline within two weeks the terms for applying a 2008 accord on "long-term cooperation in the treatment, recycling and production of fuel waste," said a statement from Fillon's office.
The two company bosses made no comment following the meeting that lasted about 30 minutes and was also attended by Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo.
EDF had accused Areva on Monday of halting fuel supplies to the electricity giant's 58 nuclear reactors in a contract dispute, but Areva denied the claim, saying it had stopped treatment of the waste.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's chief of staff Claude Gueant complained that France's world heavyweight nuclear sector was lacking leadership.
"This is pathetic," said Senator Ladislas Poniatowksi, from Sarkzoy's UMP party. "We have a nuclear industry in France that is pretty much first-rate. But they are killing it with this kind of behaviour."
The government has also defended Proglio in a controversy over his earnings as head of EDF while he is also earning money from a position at the French international utility group Veolia.
Date created : 2010-01-21