India to build nuclear reactors in earthquake zone with help from BNP Paribas
As French president Nicholas Sarkozy visits India in his role as salesman for the nuclear industry, Greenpeace activists today visited the headquarters of France’s BNP Paribas bank to tell it to stop its radioactive investment in new nuclear reactors.
The bank’s latest folly is to pump cash into the construction of two French-designed EPR nuclear reactors in the earthquake zone in India’s Jaitapur region. The area is crossed by three tectonic faults. Between 1990 and 2000 there were three earthquakes there, all with a magnitude above five on the Richter scale. The Indian earthquake risk scale ranks areas from one to five. Jaitapur is classified as a four, meaning earthquakes can reach seven on the Richter scale. In 1993, the region experienced one earthquake reaching 6.3 leaving 9,000 people dead. Nowhere else in the world has a nuclear reactor been built in an area with seismic hazards of this magnitude.
In short, this is a crazy project. The opposition by the local people in Jaitapur is massive, mainly coming from the farmers and fishermen who refused the paltry financial compensation that the state wants to pay them to take ownership of their land. On Saturday nearly 10,000 people demonstrated at the Jaitapur site and 700 people were arrested.
It’s been reported that BNP will lead a syndicated loan of several billion euros, which should cover 70% of the financial needs of this dangerous project. The scandal is that BNP does not measure the risks to the environment or the local people because it knows the French and Indian governments guarantee the loan will be repaid no matter what. A nuclear accident will not threaten BNP’s investment, just the lives of those close by.
BNP has a history of a lack of transparency in its nuclear dealings. The bank did not respond to questions from concerned citizens about its financing of the new Angra reactor in Brazil. BNP is the first bank in the world to support the nuclear industry by funding hazardous projects and must provide full transparency in how it uses its customers’ money. It should also look to other nuclear scandals to see how reputations can be damaged.
The French nuclear industry is desperate to get a slice of India’s nuclear action and is slashing its costs accordingly. A contract to build two EPRs for 5.4 billion euros is being negotiated and yet the EPR currently being built in Finland costs 5.7 billion euros by itself after years of rocketing cost, schedule overruns, and thousands of construction defects.
So who will pay the difference? France guarantees the loans taken by Indian institutions from European banks in order to encourage India to buy these two reactors. It is a project with no financial risk for the banks but plenty for the poor French taxpayer who will have to put his hand in his pocket once again.
We invite citizens, and especially customers of BNP, to urge the bank to stop its radioactive investments. Is your bank investing in nuclear power? Find out at Nuclear Banks? No Thanks!. Read Greenpeace’s Jaitapur media briefing ‘EPR -- a nuclear problem not an energy solution’.