Paris: April 12
French president Nicolas Sarkozy was keen to sell the Qaddafi regime nuclear power, but encountered protests from the boss . . .[restrict]of Areva, France’s nuclear power station builder.
The claim is made by Anne Lauvergeon, the former CEO of Areva, who after ten years in the job was ousted last year in a coup supported by the Elysée Palace. She maintained in an interview with the French weekly L’Express, that in 2007 the newly-elected Sarkozy was anxious to sell Libya a nuclear power station, together with a desalination plant. Lauvergeon said that though she had resisted the idea “vigorously”, the president had persisted with the project until 2010.
“The state, which was supposed to be responsible, was supporting this folly,” she said. “Imagine, if we’d done it, how it would look now!”
Sarkozy is currently campaigning to win a second presidential term. The first round of voting takes place in ten days time on April 22 with the run-off on May 6.
Lauvergeon, known as “Atomic Anne”, has long been at daggers drawn with Sarkozy, who was seen as wanting to remove her from the powerful position as head of France’s largest nuclear reactor maker, which is 87 percent government-owned. She is on record as saying that when he took office, Sarkozy had called her and offered her any ministerial portfolio she wanted.
She claims he later suggested she take over the running of Air France, a job which she says she pointed out to the president was supposedly ear-marked for his friend, Alexander Juniac. Sarkozy is reported to have responded that Juniac was not the right level of executive and would never be the president of the airline. Last November, Juniac was in fact given the job.
In reality, the seeds of Lauvergnon’s undoing were sown in the year Sarkozy took power, when Areva paid $2.5 billion for UraMin, a Canadian company that was supposed to own abundant deposits of uranium in central and southern Africa. It turned out that the amount of the mineral was grossly over-estimated. At the end of last year Areva was forced to take a $1.46 billion write-down on the investment. There were allegations of fraud in the company, which were later dismissed by a parliamentary enquiry.
Lauvergeon has since claimed that leading up to her ouster in June 2011, she was the victim of a plot organised “at the very highest levels”. She has mounted la egal action claiming that she was spied on at Areva and that her firing in favour of Sarkozy ally, Luc Oursel, had done “considerable harm” to her reputation.
Since she launched her legal case, Areva has suspended payment of the €1.5 million severance package agreed for her. She is shortly publishing a book “The Woman Who Fights Back”, which may contain further details about the nuclear power station deal she claims Sarkozy was so keen to cut with Qaddafi.