The Doel nuclear power plant in the suburbs of Antwerp in Belgium | © Unsplash/Nicolas HIPPERT
It's a rumor circulating online: according to some Internet users, France, under Emmanuel Macron would have “sold” a strategic technology for the future of nuclear power: the Astrid project. A technology which, they believe, would nevertheless have “enabled our energy sovereignty”.
The rumor comes, not too surprisingly, from a conspiracy channel known as AgoraTV which published a video on the subject entitled “suicide energy and high treason”, on October 3. The video largely maintains vagueness about its sources or the seriousness of the speakers.
No, France has not sold any nuclear technology to the Americans
Before concluding that the hexagon on the orders of the Élysée would have “abandoned an extremely virtuous project before letting the United States and Bill Gates take over the project”. The problem is that over the course of fact-checking the numerous shortcuts relayed in the video, the accusation loses all its substance.
What the video actually criticizes is the abandonment of the Astrid project, a 4th generation fast neutron reactor – the same technology as reactors – decommissioned for almost 15 years, for the last one, Phoenix and Superphoenix.
The idea behind these reactors was to use NaK (a alloy of the metals sodium and potassium) as a heat carrier as well as radionuclides. The technology would have allowed, among other things, continuous supply and recycling of fissile materials. While significantly increasing energy efficiency.
The Astrid project was stopped in 2019 under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron. However, he was not the only one at work. This ruling actually results from decisions taken during the previous legislature with numerous speakers including Nicolas Hulot, François de Rugy and Élisabeth Borne.
It also arises from a report from the Court of Auditors which judged the costs to be too high. Astrid technology is only one of the avenues for entering the 4th generation of nuclear reactors. Despite this stoppage, nothing was “sold” to the United States, or even less to Bill Gates who is nevertheless effectively financing a reactor project based on similar technology.
In France, even though the experimental reactors are shut down, a team of 135 people is still researching fast neutron reactor technology. The work developed by Astrid remains completely the property of the State.
It should be noted that France is not the only nation to points out nuclear – and that other countries have been working on these technologies for a long time independently of France, notably the United States, China, Russia and India.
The American billionaire's project, announced in June 2021, is called Natrium and is the result of one of his companies, TerraPower. The first plant, with an estimated cost of 1 billion dollars, must deliver a fairly modest nominal power compared to Astrid, of the order of 345 megawatts compared to 600 megawatts for the French project.
- Conspiracy video claims France sold liquid NaK reactor technology to Bill Gates.
- The cited project, carried by the&# 8217;entrepreneur Bill Gates, has no connection with the intellectual properties of the abandoned Astrid project.
< li>The subject, however, makes many shortcuts, to the point that its conclusions are in fact quite far from reality.
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