French nuclear industry in turmoil as manufacturer buckles

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PARIS (AP) — France's nuclear industry is in turmoil after the country's main reactor manufacturer, Areva, reported a loss for 2014 of 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) — more than its entire market value.

The government of France, the world's most nuclear dependent country, has a 29 percent stake in Areva, which is among the biggest global nuclear technology companies. The loss puts its future — and that of France as a leader in nuclear technology — at risk.

Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal said Wednesday she asked Areva and utility giant Electricite de France to work together on finding solutions, amid reports of a possible merger or other link-up.

The government said in a statement that it's working closely with Areva to restructure and secure financing, and would "take its responsibility as a shareholder" in future decisions about its direction.

Areva reported Wednesday 1 billion euros in losses on three major nuclear projects in Finland and France, among other hits.

Areva has lost money for years, in part linked to delays on those projects and to a global pullback from nuclear energy since the 2011 Fukushima accident.

The industry employs 220,000 people in France.

Royal, describing the situation in the strategic industry as "very difficult," said job cuts aren't expected as Areva tries to get back on its feet, but said the company is studying voluntary departures.

"Perhaps in the past, these companies remained too inert, too static, but today they are changing," she told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.