Independent nuclear and energy policy experts in France, a country crucially dependent on nuclear power, are few indeed. Yves Marignac is a respected member of this select corps. Marignac’s consultant work covers a wide range of nuclear issues for various institutional bodies and NGOs at the national and international level, from the European Parliament and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Europe’s largest fundamental science agency, to the Paris environmental ministry, as well as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Marignac is the author or co-author of a number of books and other publications, including Nuclear Power, the Great Illusion – Promises, Setbacks and Threats (October 2008), and Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing in France (April 2008).
Marignac’s glowing reputation was underscored this past year, when, together with Arjun Mahhijani, he published a 178-page report commissioned by Greenpeace France: a detailed alternative analysis of the post-Fukushima nuclear reactor stress tests carried out across La Grande Nation. Marignac and Mahhijan uncovered concrete constructional flaws in the safety assessments which gravely undermined test results. Immediately following the publication of the report, L’Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN), together with the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN), invited the study’s two authors to participate in an internal conference debate – a premiere move by the government agencies. The ASN website leaks this much: “Participants were pleased with the quality of the discussion.”
“Promoting independent information and well-informed decision-making regarding the use of nuclear energy for power generation.”
In 1997 Marignac joined World Information Service on Energy (WISE), an NGO dedicated to “promoting independent information and well-informed decision-making regarding the use of nuclear energy for power generation.” In 2009, as WISE-Paris executive director, Yves traveled to the United States to make policy makers in Washington aware that the “French nuclear model”, touted by nuclear power lobbyists as clean energy par excellence, is actually a dangerous mirage. Marignac said: “I am at a loss to understand how the United States could be so far off the mark in its understanding of the French experience with nuclear power. The so-called “success story” of the French nuclear program, which is being promoted so assiduously by the U.S. Nuclear industry, is a complete disconnect with the stark reality of the 50-year history of rising costs, steadily worsening delays, technological dead-ends, failed industrial challenges and planning mistakes. The United States could make few worse mistakes than embracing France’s sorry nuclear legacy. If American policymakers are going to weigh the example of France, they need to get the facts instead of settling for the fantasy being sold to them by the U.S. nuclear industry.”
Over the past fifteen years of painstaking work, Marignac’s ambition has been to undo the French “toutnucléaire”, and help usher the world to a clean energy future. The 43-year-old father of three considers his Nuclear-Free Future Award as a sort of segment win along the way; he realizes that a long, formidable stretch yet lies before us.