National Geographic : 1991 Aug
50 completely separate utilities, some more skillful than others. Just as important, the French utility has generally been able to site its nuclear stations without the kind of public opposition that U. S. power companies have dreaded. Some say that this is due to the traditional reluctance of the French people to question central authority and to their support for a nuclear military policy. Others point to EDF's information campaigns and programs of economic development. Take the village of Cattenom, a community of 2,700 on the bank of the Moselle River in northeastern France. The town is located in a steelmaking region hit hard by the recession of the mid-1970s. In 1979 EDF began construction here of four 1,300 megawatt pressurized-water reactors-one of the largest nuclear complexes in France. Since the power plant was started, EDF has built more than 900 houses in nearby com munities, 53 of them in Cat tenom. The utility has invested 47 million francs (eight million dollars) in local roads and pays more than a fifth of the town's annual budget in taxes. Cattenom's schools, commu nity center, athletic stadium, town hall, and tennis club were all financed through loans backed by EDF taxes, says Mayor Alphonse Bohler. And the workers at the plant help keep the town's businessmen prosperous. You couldn't find a bigger fan of nuclear power than the mayor, who is as proud of Cattenom's cooling towers as he is of the portrait of Charles de Gaulle that hangs on the wall above his desk. "We were living in the Middle Ages when I was first elected," says Bohler, who has held office since 1959. "Now we have four doctors, two dentists, a pharmacist, and a lawyer." To introduce the plant to the public, EDF welcomes busloads of visitors every day to Cattenom-some 18,000 ayear. Opposition to the station has come mainly from residents of nearby Germany and Luxembourg. Following the accident at Chernobyl, thousands of protesters gathered at the German border ten miles away. But in Cattenom and surrounding communities there has never been a serious campaign against the plant. "Sure, there were people against the plant at the start," says Nathalie Louis, dabbing a solution onto a customer's hair curlers at Salon Bernard. "Now those same people are working there." The program still has its critics. Some complain about the huge NORTHERN GIANT Nearly 700 miles north of the U. S. border, six hydroelectric generators being installed at Hydro-Quebec's La Grande 2A complex could supply 7 percent ofNew England's power by 1992. Buying electricity from Canada allows U. S. utility companies to delay construction of new plants. A Comebackfor Nuclear Power?