Nuclear firm's financial meltdown: workers set to pay heavy price for French elites' blunders

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The giant French nuclear group Areva, whose core business is making nuclear reactors, has just announced staggering losses of 4.8 billion euros in 2014. That comes on top of nearly 3 billion euros of losses racked up in preceding years. In a bid to resolve this disastrous situation the state-owned company is now drawing up a restructuring plan that could lead to thousands of job losses. However, the group's woes cannot simply be blamed on recent events such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan or a cyclical downturn. Instead the group's terrible financial position has been building for many years thanks to industrial squabbles, bad management decisions and poor strategy. But as ever, says Mediapart's Martine Orange, it looks as if it will be the workforce who will pay the price of the group's failings rather than France's industrial, civil service and political elites despite their responsibility for this industrial fiasco.

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In a sense, Areva is already dead. The giant French nuclear group, created thirteen-and-a-half years ago in September 2001, has just foundered on the rocks of its own errors and losses. Even if it survives, even if it keeps its name and some of its current activities, the group will never be the same again. The announcement on Wednesday March 4th that it had lost 4.8 billion euros in 2014 – which comes on top of 500 million euros lost in 2013 and 2.4 billion euros in 2011 – brings to a definitive end Areva's ambitions to be the world's leading nuclear player.

Yet despite the anguished tone of some newspaper editorials, this industrial and financial disaster was only a shock for those who had preferred to look the other way. For the story of Areva is that of a catastrophe foretold. It was not the tsunami-induced disaster at Fukushima in Japan followed by a world-wide retreat from nuclear that are at the origins of Areva's setbacks. This downturn has simply exposed the group's existing internal problems.