Twenty-six members and friends enjoyed an interesting and informative morning at the nuclear power station in Chinon on Tuesday, 14th October. Once assembled, our passports and identity cards were checked and we passed through the security area into the visitor centre. This area is packed with facts and figures, interactive activities and a superb model of the site. We had barely enough time to absorb everything around us before for the start of the talk in an adjoining lecture theatre.
The speaker was Denis Valdelièvre who works in the public relations department of the nuclear plant at Civaux in the Viennes. Denis started his presentation by outlining the organisation of electricity production in France, where 85% of the electricity is produced by EDF, the largest provider of electricity in the world. He explained why different designs are used in the construction of nuclear plants. For example, there is no need for cooling towers if the site is near the sea or a large river as these natural resources can be exploited. Another example was the site at Chinon itself, where the cooling towers are only 29 metres high in order to maintain the dominance of Saumur castle over the region.
We were then shown diagrams of the working of pressurised water reactors, the method used to produce electricity at Chinon. There followed questions about safety issues relating to nuclear power plants and to the disposal of nuclear waste. Denis explained that a lot has been learned in France from the Fukushima disaster and outlined the procedures in place to ensure production can be shut down instantaneously if necessary.
Denis spoke excellent English and throughout his talk welcomed questions which made for a very active session. His knowledge of the industry was simply amazing, and he reeled off facts and figures without hesitation. Julie Dufour thanked Denis on behalf of the ESU. We would like to thank him again and also to extend our thanks to Ericka Blanchet, our guide for the morning, who had planned and organised the visit for us.
Pudding was an apple and Pecan individual tart, with lemon sorbet. A glass of Kir, and wine was included, and everything was followed by coffee and petit fours. Everyone agreed the food was exceptional, and we will certainly be eating there again. Members went home feeling very satisfied having had an interesting day.