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What the papers said 28 Mar 2018

rfi English, Mar 28

What's the best thing to do with radioactive nuclear waste; and are we on the brink of a cashless society?

What do you do with nuclear left-overs, those mountains of highly radioactive waste which emerge from the nation's power stations on a daily basis, and which remain dangerous for thousands of years?

Le Monde says the government has opened the debate, even if the current favoured option is to bury the stuff in something called the Industrial Centre for Geological Storage in eastern France.

The centrist daily carries the advice of the physicist Bernard Laponche, who is one of the founders of the expert advisory group Global Chance. He's a specialist in nuclear reactors and energy economics. He used to be the boss of the French energy control agency, and Bernard says stop. Burying nuclear waste is the worst possible solution.

This will come as bad news to the president of the French Nuclear Security Agency who says hiding the stuff underground is "the only serious option". And to the ecology minister, Nicolas Hulot, who says burial is "the least bad solution".

Bernard Laponche says there is no satisfactory answer, and that everyone in the industry knows it.

The problem with the burial option is that it is dangerous and irreversible, therefore to be avoided at all costs.

What would happen if there was a build up of explosive gases in the storage chamber? Or if water leaked in, became contaminated, and leaked out again? What if the storage cases, which are made of bitumen, started to leak? Or caught fire?

Not to mention the attractiveness of the vast site, 15 square kilometres, 500 metres underground, peppered with ventilation ducts, to potential terrorists.

Finally, says Bernard Laponche, it is hypocritical to say we are protecting future generations form the burden of our nuclear waste. By locking the radioactive muck away, we just conceal a problem which will remain dangerous for hundreds of human lifetimes, without offering our descendants any way of reversing the situation if science finally finds a satisfactory way of neutralising nuclear leftovers.

Paying your way in a cashless society

Money could finally be going out of business.

Le Figaro looks at the ways in which electronic gadgets are rapidly changing the way we pay for things, saying that cash is under the cosh and the traditional banks are scared that they'll lose out in the brave new world of virtual wealth.

In Dijon, for example, you no longer have to buy a ticket to use the city tramway. It's not free. You just present your contactless credit card to a reader in the tram, and Bob's your uncle. Soon, it will take just a single keyboard click to send a payment to any other account, to pay a bill, offer a cash gift, settle a debt. No need for the payee to figure on your laboriously complied list of "authorised recipients". Cheques will become positively stone age.

Even credit cards may soon become something kids read about in history books. Your mobile phone will soon be the only bank you ever need, say the experts, sounding a bit like advertisers.

For the moment, money is the main method; French purchasers still use cash to pay 68 per cent of their shopping and restaurant bills. But China already boasts several completely cash-free cities.

Sweden had planned to abolish cash by 2030 but has had to revise the plan in the face of public revolt. People still like money, not least because it allows them relative freedom and leaves practically no trace.


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