PARIS — French water treatment giant Veolia expects the market for nuclear waste cleanup to keep growing worldwide and plans to focus its efforts in Japan on low-level radioactive waste, CEO Antoine Frerot said in a recent interview with The Nikkei.
Veolia is getting into the nuclear waste cleanup market in Japan with its acquisition of Kurion, a U.S. company specializing in that field. The two companies plan to provide a broad range of services and technologies, Frerot said.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: Five years have passed since the Fukushima disaster. How did Fukushima influence Veolia’s decision to get into the nuclear industry?
A: It wasn’t the Fukushima accident that prompted Veolia to take an interest in processing radioactive waste. Veolia took a strategic decision to consider the processing of hazardous waste as a priority. There are several types of hazardous waste, and radioactive waste is one of them.
The worldwide decommissioning market, including the disposal of radioactive waste, will be worth an estimated $200 billion between 2012 and 2030. Processing of low-level radioactive waste is therefore a growth market. We took the view that the market would grow substantially, for three reasons. The first is that there is currently no economically viable solution for processing low-level radioactive waste at an affordable cost. The second is that many nuclear sites will be shut down and decommissioned in the next 30 years. The third is that the lives of many other nuclear sites will be extended. That will require the replacement of some equipment. There is a lot of contaminated old equipment that will have to be processed.
Our work in the wake of the Fukushima accident showed Veolia’s expertise in treating radioactively contaminated water, and allowed us to test the skills of U.S. company Kurion, which we decided to acquire.