This time, the bill for the controversial merger of the two players in nuclear safety – the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), responsible for control and decision-making, and the technical arm, responsible for research and expertise , the Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) − was definitively adopted, on the night of Tuesday April 9 to Wednesday April 10, by a final favorable vote of the Senate, after having overcome the obstacle of the National Assembly , at the end of a turbulent journey through Parliament.

The merger of the nuclear policeman and the technical expert of the sector was unsurprisingly approved by the senators, by 233 votes to 109, completing the examination of this government bill.

The suspense had been lifted a little earlier in the day by the broad adoption of the deputies (340 votes against 173) with the support of the presidential camp, the right and that, this time, of the National Rally (RN), which was opposed to it in March at first reading.

The parliamentarians voted on a compromise text sealed between representatives of the National Assembly and the Senate for this reform which, according to its detractors, risks causing a “disorganization” of the system and casting doubt on the independence of the decisions of the future single entity.

The government hopes to “fluidify” the sector

The RN’s final support for this text extinguished the hopes of the opposition camp, made up of left-wing groups, whether pro or anti-nuclear, and independents from the LIOT group (Freedoms, Independents, Overseas and Territories). Without the votes of the RN, the bill had only passed by a hair on first reading, 260 votes against 259. “Even if the text remains imperfect”, the reform “will make it possible to accelerate the construction of new reactors », Justified, to Agence France-Presse, the deputy (RN) for Aisne Nicolas Dragon to explain this change of direction.

“It’s catastrophic or very enlightening about your incompetence,” said the deputy (LIOT) for the North Benjamin Saint-Huile to the RN, describing his members as “weathervanes”.

This bill provides for the creation, in 2025, of a Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Authority (ASNR), resulting from the merger of the ASN and the IRSN, which respectively employ approximately 530 and 1,740 agents. The government believes that the end of a dual system will make it possible to “fluidify” the sector by reducing the time required for expertise and authorization of installations. “With this text, we are allowing our talents to focus on priority safety issues while maintaining our requirements in this area,” rejoiced the Minister of Industry, Roland Lescure, after the votes.

Eighth demonstration in front of the Assembly

Opponents, however, warn of a possible loss of independence of experts and transparency. The project, which is opposed by a number of elected officials, engineers and associations, has also provoked the ire of the unions of the two entities. In the streets for an eighth time on Tuesday, IRSN employees called on deputies to oppose it. “IRSN dismantled, safety in danger”, “forced marriage, accident assured”, we read on the signs in the procession.

A reason for hope for the unions, the key article of the reform was rejected in committee at the beginning of March in the National Assembly before being reinstated in session.

A year earlier, it was in the Hemicycle that a coalition of oppositions blocked the merger by rejecting an amendment from the executive to a previous bill, devoted to the relaunch of nuclear power.

The parliamentary debate “has proven to us once again how this project does not respond to any technical or scientific justification,” said the (communist) deputy for Seine-Maritime Sébastien Jumel.

Double cap

The rapporteur of the text to the National Assembly, Jean-Luc Fugit (Renaissance, Rhône), tried to convince the opposition of the guarantees provided by the final text. The single authority “will be monitored like milk on fire”, he argues, stressing that it should present its draft internal regulations to parliamentarians.

An amendment adopted at the end of the parliamentary shuttle also provides “for each file” a distinction between the staff responsible for expertise and those responsible for a decision, one of the most discussed points. But, deplores the (socialist) MP for Manche Anna Pic, “the same agent could intervene as an expert on a file one week, then take the role of decision-maker the following week on another”.

“I have never seen an expert capable of deciding and I very much doubt the ability of a decision-maker to develop advanced expertise,” worried Lot senator (Radical Left Party) Raphaël Daubet. Changing hats like this seems dangerous to me. »