Reacting to the first oil shock

Even though the first oil shock – multiplication by a factor of 4 of the oil prices decided by OPEC in the wake of the 1973 Kippur War – was severely resented in most western countries, it was especially problematic in France for two reasons. On the one hand, oil was supplying more then two third of our electricity, a commodity even more vital than gasoline, and on the other hand memories of the 1957 embargo were still vivid in many French minds. Overnight, the previously soft addiction to im­ported oil became unacceptable and something had to be done to reduce it. As there was – and unfortunately still is – little possibility of substitution to oil products for transportation, efforts were decided on energy conservation and phasing oil out of electricity generation.

After consultation with EDF, the government, under Prime Minister Pierre Messmer, decided in March 1974 to cancel all the planned fossil power plants and accelerate dramatically the nuclear equipment programme, jumping from 1 or 2 to 6 plants a year, with a clear-cut objective: replacing totally oil by nuclear power in the French electricity mix! Furthermore, in 1975, it was decided to select only one plant type, the standardized 900 MWe PWR built by EDF with the Nuclear Island NSSS supplied by Framatome under license from Westinghouse. In February 1974 was also launched the construction of the large international EURODIF enrichment plant on the Tricas – tin site, based on the CEA technology and able to supply enriched fuel to 100 LWR. Framatome, therefore, gained the monopoly of NSSS supply to the whole French nuclear programme. Westinghouse was then asked to sell its shares in the capital of Framatome to the CEA, part of it being paid in kind through a common R&D pro­gramme (Framatome is now AREVA NP).

Updated: September 24, 2015 — 12:36 am