Parliamentary Office for evaluation
of scientific and technological options (OPECST)


What is the structure of OPECST ?
What are the study progammes ?
What are its general and international concerns ?
OPECST's reports : abstracts


Whereas science was long considered as a vehicle of knowledge, and not as the principle of an action, modern times have witnessed the development of sciences and technologies enabling mankind to act upon nature. In other words, science has passed from speculation to action. However, in doing so, it has brought up fresh problems and new concerns. If, only yesterday, we allowed it free development in the context of everyone's well-being it was supposed to guarantee, we now ask it to show previous proof of its innocence.

From this observation was born the idea of technology assessment which appeared essential to scientific and political bodies. Mechanisms had to be put in place in order to control technical progress while, at the same time, anticipating its consequences.

In the early 80's, on the occasion of a number of debates such as the orientations concerning nuclear, spatial or "cable" programmes, Parliament came to the conclusion that it was unable to evaluate Government's decisions on the major directions of scientific and technological policy.

It therefore decided to endow itself with its own structure of assessment: the Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options (OPECST).
OPECST, which was set up by Act n° 83-609 of July 8, 1983, following a unanimous vote of Parliament, aims, within the terms of the act, " to inform Parliament of scientific and technological options in order, specifically, to make its decisions clear ". Regarding this, OPECST " collects information, launches study programmes and carries out assessments ".

What is the stucture of OPECST  ?

An independent structure
OPECST is a particular structure within Parliament: its members, who are nominated in order to guarantee a proportional representation of political groups, belong both to the National Assembly and to the Senate. It is composed of eight Members of the National Assembly and eight Senators ; each member thereof has a deputy with the same powers, who may be designated as a " rapporteur " (1) under the same conditions, but with authority only to vote in the absence of the person entitled.
As regard the chairmanship of OPECST, it is customary for the chairman to be a member of either assembly, alternately, for a period of three years. Internal rules stipulate that the vice-chairman shall belong to the other assembly.
(1) A " rapporteur " is a Member of Parliament in charge of writing a report on a given subject.

Only Members of Parliament may refer matters to OPECST
Matters can be referred to OPECST by the board of either assembly (at the request of the chairman of a political group, or on the initiative of sixty Members of the National Assembly or forty Senators), or by a special or permanent committee.
Until now, the topics dealt with have belonged to four main subjects: energy, environment, new technologies and sciences of life.
Some matters referred to OPECST have been reexamined several years on end, such as problems connected with the safety and security of nuclear installations. Others have requested the updating of one of OPECST's previous reports (development of the semiconductor sector, television with digital high-definition, high-activity nuclear waste, etc.). The renewal of these matters has enabled OPECST to ensure the following-up of certain files.

The Scientific Committee
acts as an intermediary between the political world and the world of research. It must be listening to researchers and request authorized opinions. In order to carry out its task, OPECST is assisted by a Scientific Committee reflecting the diversity of scientific and technological disciplines in its very composition, as it is made up of fifteen leading figures selected for their competence.

What are the study programmes ?

The " rapporteur "'s nomination
Any matter referred to OPECST leads to the nomination of one or more " rapporteurs ", exclusively selected from the members of OPECST. Many different study programmes have brought together a Member of the National Assembly and a Senator.

The feasibility study
When a " rapporteur " has been designated, he first draws up a feasibility study, whose aim is to establish the state of our knowledge on the subject, to determine possible trends of research, to assess the possibilities of obtaining relevant results within the deadline, and finally to evaluate the necessary means for starting a study programme.
The " rapporteur " then submits the conclusions of his feasibility study together with methodological remarks to the members of OPECST. At that stage, he suggests either that an end should be put to his work, (it happens very rarely), or he proposes to modify the extent of the study (a study first dealing with bio-carburants was thus extended to prospects for development of non food agricultural products), or, much more frequently, he starts a study programme that leads to the drawing-up of a report.

The drafting of a report
The " rapporteur " then goes ahead with hearings enabling him to gather, without exclusion, all opinions from concerned persons and organisations. He may also travel in France or abroad in order to inspect installations and firms connected with his work..
Throughout his study, the " rapporteur " is assisted by a parliamentary civil servant and, if need be, by a work-group made up of competent people not belonging to Parliament. He may also hire French or foreign free-lance experts and consultants for further investigation into specific items. He may likewise gather the opinions of trades unions, professional organisations, and charities for the protection of the environment or consumer-defence.
However, OPECST's reports are not restricted to putting side by side the experts'points of view. Their conclusions are the work of Members of Parliament and may go beyond mere information by including suggestions and recommendations.
If the " rapporteur " deems it necessary, press-hearings are organised to gather and confront the opinions of leading figures and organisations wishing to express themselves on the subject in discussion. The minutes of these hearings may then be annexed to the report.

The " rapporteurs "' powers
OPECST " rapporteurs " have identical powers as budgetary " rapporteurs ": they may therefore carry out direct investigations on any organisation dependent of the State and have access to any available document, with the exception of those dealing with military matters or State security. In addition, in the event of difficulties encountered in exercising their mission, OPECST " rapporteurs " may request to be given the prerogatives granted to parliamentary committees of inquiry.

How are their reports published ?
At the end of their work, the " rapporteurs " submit their draft report and conclusions to the members of OPECST. They are presented in such a way that they may be used directly for legislative work or budgetary discussion. Members of OPECST must decide whether they publish these works and all or part of the minutes of the hearings and the contributions by the experts. In this respect, OPECST's decisions are mostly unanimous and the consensus of its decisions is one of OPECST’s main features.
The documents from OPECST, making up a particular collection within all the parliamentary reports, are on sale at the " Kiosque de l’Assemblée Nationale " , at the " Espace Librairie du Sénat " and at the Official Gazette.

What are its general and international concerns ?

OPECST has gradually become an efficient instrument in parliamentary affairs. Several acts make provision either for its information or its participation in the nomination of representatives of Parliament within various bodies, or for its representation, by its President or one of its members, within the board of directors of various organisations.
It has also become an acknowledged spokesman for the whole scientific community and pursues connections with this community. The events bringing together OPECST and high-level organisations -the Académie des Sciences, CEA, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, CNRS, etc.- are the true illustration of this.
Every year, several conferences and seminars are organised by OPECST, either in relation to one of its concerns or about a scientific or technological subject.
Finally, OPECST also contributes to the development of international parliamentary relations and takes part in various congresses and events, in particular on the European level. Thus, over the last few years, we have seen the setting-up of an information and exchange network, the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment, bringing together the European organisations responsible for conducting scientific and technological assessments for national Parliaments and the European Parliament.
In the near future, OPECST would like to continue and strengthen its various missions and, in particular, play a role in furthering the exchange between the political and scientific worlds.

OPECST's reports : abstracts

85. Alerts as to the imminence of an epidemic appear regularly in the news.
In this report Mr Jean-Pierre Door, Deputy, and Mrs Marie-Christine Blandin, Senator, study the ‘epidemic risk’.  Diseases caused by an infectious agent today form the most complex public health problem, as the nature of the viruses, bacteria or prions which we may have to deal with is not known in advance.
The public authorities are making a considerable effort in this field. The progress accomplished by the French health monitoring and alert system is remarkable, even if the 2003 heat wave showed there could be shortcomings in this system, which are analysed by the rapporteurs.
One conclusion stands out: the policy combating the epidemic risk has to be all inclusive. It cannot be limited to medical issues. Hygiene, living conditions, and the level of information and culture are also fundamental parameters.

83. "Implementation of act n° 98-535 of 1 july 1998 on the strengthening of health monitoringand surveillance of the health safety of products intended for human consumption "
The Act of 1 July 1998 introduced an innovative institutional and functional architecture forming a new step in health safety in France. This Act  lays down that the Government and Parliament, through the Office parlementaire d’évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques (Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology Assessment) shall assess the implementation of all the Act’s provisions prior to their possible reconsideration. The report by Mr Claude Saunier, Senator (Côtes-d’Armor), continues the work by Mr Bernard Seillier, Senator (Aveyron), and corresponds to this referral by right. 
This assessment concerns the suitability of the institutions and mechanisms for the safety, reactivity and transparency aims set forth by the Act of 1998 and it also relates to the already made or on-going adjustments rendered necessary by recent events (heat wave of 2003, plant health products, medicinal drugs).
The report itself comprises four sections: an overview of health safety; the Agence française de la sécurité sanitaire des aliments (AFSSA – French Food Safety Agency); the Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des produits de santé (AFSSAPS – French Health Products Safety Agency); and the clarification of some mechanisms and other competent bodies, particularly in the environmental field. 
* The general organisation of health safety today proves globally satisfactory, meeting the set objectives; the option for a single health safety agency for all products and all hazards was rightly dismissed in 1998 and the organisational principles set in place have been confirmed: separation between assessment and management of a hazard, the case of the AFSSAPS forming a justified exception. The implementation of the general principles of health and environmental safety must however be permanently adapted. The principles must be placed back in perspective to take account of the real hazards: environmental standards form a means of measuring a danger or a hazard and their amendment is only envisageable with respect to these dangers or hazards. Similarly, the gap between the high levels of safety attained (food field) and obvious threats due to risk behaviours (obesity) requires more attention than ever as regards the orientation and focussing of health vigilance on the real hazards. 
* The AFSSA has met the expectations and reached the goals assigned to it in the sphere of health safety, where crises have been avoided or mastered, and also in that of nutrition where it is contributing decisively to the prevention of obesity. Some adjustments can be made in concertation with the other players of the field, particularly at European level where the stakeholders have not all determined their positioning. 
* The AFSSAPS, whose powers are considerably broader than those of the Agence du médicament (Medicinal Drugs Agency) which preceded it, has had to cope with difficulties inherent in its setting up; further, it has undergone unending changes in the external administrative mechanisms which have impacted its workload and its relations with the other entities responsible in the health products field, particularly the health ministry. The market approval procedures have been correctly applied within the present reference framework, but the current worldwide Vioxx crisis is raising many questions and requires a collective rebound. Several essential recommendations are made in this respect, with the overarching desire to place progress at the service of the population. 
Expertise, for instance, must be radically reviewed both concerning the conceptions and the means which must necessarily be devoted to it. The creation of a high scientific expertise authority is therefore recommended. In addition, Parliament should address this issue by one of its monitoring and assessment procedures.
Further, the risks of the trivialization of medicinal drugs, especially with Internet sales, are also signalled, particularly in view of the situation in the United States and Germany. 
* The clarification of some mechanisms proves necessary in the health safety field globally but also in specific fields such as health at work and chemicals. The specific issue of the positioning of the Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale (AFSSE – French Environmental Health Safety Agency) (Act of 9 May 2001) is addressed and is the subject of a recommendation for it to be grouped for the time being with the AFSSA. The prospect of the creation, on new and ambitious bases, of an environmental agency is to be rapidly envisaged. 

82.- "Biotechnologies in France and in Europe"
            As a follow-up to his report devoted in 1998 to the use of GMOs in agriculture and food, Jean-Yves Le Déaut studies, in this new report, the prospects offered by biotechnologies in other application sectors, their diffusion, the economic stakes and the constraints surrounding their development. On the basis of the arrangements implemented in several countries, he identifies the levers for the development of biotechnologies requiring the mobilisation of high amounts of finance and the involvement of all the players, universities, research organisations, industrial groups and small and medium sized companies, which shall mutually strengthen one another.
            It is quite clear that France and Europe are lagging behind.
            France is showing signs of faltering in the fields of public and private research, innovation, and the creation of companies, particularly with respect to the United States. This delay must and can be overcome.
            Biotechnologies, which have developed thanks to the fantastic progress made by life sciences, are key technologies. Jean-Yves Le Déaut feels that, beyond the risks often put forward to slow down the development of biotechnologies, they can improve our living conditions and form a development instrument for the countries of the South. The scientific and technological breakthroughs of recent years allow us to anticipate the many benefits which this report sets out to identify: improving fundamental knowledge, creating substances of medical interest, developing new therapies, detecting and diagnosing, diminishing pollution generated by pesticides, increasing yields to meet food needs, improving the nutritional quality of products, reducing the consumption of raw materials and energy, treating waste, and depolluting.
            Nor can the significance of the industrial stakes be underestimated in a context marked by successive concentrations. This is particularly the case in the pharmaceutical sector which, according to Jean-Yves Le Déaut, must cope with a full-blown ‘crisis’.  To escape from this ‘spiral of decline’, he feels that the existing industrial fabric must be supported and innovation promoted.
            The impact of regulations must also be taken into account and care should be taken to avoid a new form of competition based on regulations. These issues should mainly be addressed at European level.
            Jean-Yves Le Déaut deals with the specific situation of GMOs in agriculture which, to his mind, illustrates the crisis of biotechnologies in France and in Europe and emphasises the absolute necessity to renew dialogue between experts, scientists and citizens.
            To rectify this situation, it will be necessary to have stronger State involvement to cope with the finance crisis of life sciences and biotechnologies in France. It will also be necessary to enhance the value of the results of public research. Guaranteeing a status and decent remuneration for young researchers is the first measure to be taken.
            Fifteen recommendations are made comprising sixty-three proposals.

77.- "Ways of appropriating genetic material"
The appropriation of genetic material by the biotechnology industry must not be viewed in isolation but as a powerful sign of the growing trend towards widespread merchandising which is impacting in our societies on all our traditional personal values, such as name, private life or image. The result of this is a continuous extension of the concept of property rights. The most striking illustration of this trend is its application in the fields of software and genetic material. This use of the patent has been made possible by what Alain Claeys calls a real distortion of the traditional criteria of patentability, which are that inventions should be new, involve an inventive step and be susceptible of industrial application.
Alain Claeys, in this report, returns to the subject that he had begun to discuss in his December 2001 report on the patentability of genetic material, which consisted primarily of an analysis of Directive 98/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 1998 on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions.
In this new work, Alain Claeys examines in greater detail the consequences of the growing trend towards appropriation of genetic material from the point of view of developing countries and the legal, economic, ethical and social issues.
Alain Claeys puts forward twelve recommendations at the national, European and international levels.
Politicians can no longer ignore the subject of the appropriation of genetic material. Alain Claeys makes an urgent appeal for politicians to re‑appropriate it. Given its many potential repercussions (ethical, social and economic), he would like the patentability of genetic material to be approached as a real issue of importance for the whole of society and not as a purely technical problem that only legal experts would be able to settle.
It is therefore up to the politicians, by investing heavily in this area, to contribute decisively to choices being made which will allow appropriation of genetic material to be avoided. This area could be viewed as the symbol of a desire to develop the process internationally in a controlled and jointly-managed fashion.

70.- The possible impact of drug taking on the mental health of those concerned.
By  Mr Christian Cabal, Deputy (2002).

As a result of advances in fields such as medical scanning and neurobiology, it is now possible to get a better idea of how drugs affect the brain.  This report, submitted by Christian Cabal, summarises our knowledge about the effects of drugs on the brain.
The rapporteur stresses the difficulty of drawing too general conclusions from this work.  The effects of any particular drug vary widely between individuals and according to the way in which they are administered, and although there are hard drugs - such as heroin - which are always harmful, there are now "hard" ways of taking soft drugs, showing that the latter term has come to have little meaning.
In this paper, readers will not find answers to questions about the criminalisation of drugs, for that is a separate issue, but they will at least see convincing evidence about the hazards of these substances.

68.- The environmental and health effects of nuclear tests carried out by France between 1960 and 1996, and a comparison with those conducted by the other nuclear powers.
By Mr Christian Bataille, Deputy, and Mr Henri RevoL, Senator (2002).
From July 1945 when the first nuclear test was carried out in the United States, up to the recent underground tests conducted by India and Pakistan in May 1998 (including the most powerful explosion ever - 58 megatons - in the USSR in 1961, 2419 nuclear tests, of which 543 were in the atmosphere, have been carried out by the United States, the USSR, the United Kingdom, France, China and the two Asian states already mentioned.
In line with the Office’s usual practice, the two rapporteurs, Messrs Christian Bataille, deputy, and Henri Revol, senator, have carefully analysis the facts and circumstances based on a large number of interviews in metropolitan France, Polynesia and Australia.
As far as France is concerned, they were able to make use of the earlier studies carried out by different foreign and French teams, and also the two basic appraisals done by the IAEA International Consultative Committee and the International Geomechanical Commission (1998), all of which suggested that Mururoa and Fangataufa were "the most carefully inspected areas on earth".
Following the collapse of the USSR, and as a result of a United States policy of declassifying a large number of documents over the last decade, it has been possible to begin examining the organisation, procedures and results of nuclear tests, all of which was quite impossible at the end of the 1980s.
All in all, for most of the nuclear test sites, this study provides unpublished data and analysis which should permit the different procedures and their consequences to be evaluated on the basis of properly verified facts and recent research, even though some of the consequences, notably as regards the two superpowers, are still far from allowing evaluation to any great extent.

67.- The consequences of scientific and technological developments in the telecommunications sector.
By Messrs Pierre Laffitte and René Trégouët, Senators (2001).
The technological combination of information technology and telecommunications will provide the basis for worldwide growth and lasting development over the next 10 to 15 years.
It will ultimately bring about economic and social changes on a scale similar to those brought about by the railway and electricity.
As the cards are dealt in this game, some countries will win, while others will lose.
Pierre Laffitte and René Trégouët propose four major sets of proposals to ensure that France and Europe remain in the race.

66.- The patentability of living matter.
By  Mr Alain Claeys, Deputy (2001).
The successful deciphering of the human genome early in 2001 reawakened discussion about the patentability of living matter, in other words the possibility that a person or organisation may acquire the ownership of the genetic sequences of a living organism.  In the United States this has been possible for plant species since the early 1930s, and Europe has followed a similar approach.
However the ability to acquire ownership of human genetic sequences - essential components of the human body - is an issue of an entirely different magnitude.  To begin with, it raises ethical issues of great and urgent significance to all, both politicians and members of the public.  There are also important economic and social questions in this field.
The debate about the patentability of living matter in Europe was reopened on 6th July 1998 by Directive 98/44/CE of the European Parliament and Council, which concerns the legal protection of inventions in the field of biotechnology.
In this report, Alain Claeys makes his own contribution to the discussion.  His primary aim is instructive, in order to set out the terms of reference of this problem as clearly as possible, believing that it should not remain the preserve of a few specialists since it is of concern to the country as a whole.  He also suggests additional topics for exploration and puts forward proposals as a contribution to the major public debate that he believes the subject deserves.

65.- The contribution of new technologies to the underground siting of high andvery high voltage electric cables.
By Mr Christian Kert, deputy (2001).
In view of the increasing difficulties facing the erection of new overhead electric lines in protected areas of our country, the question of placing high and very high voltage cables underground regularly comes up.
The rapporteur, Mr Christian Kert, reviews the situation regarding the underground siting of electric cables in France by comparison with the other European countries, describes some of the approaches now being used around the world and, having interviewed the research teams of the main electrical engineering and cable manufacturing firms, assesses the new technologies that should make it possible, through a properly programmed ordering policy, very substantially to reduce the cost of these operations in the years to come.
The underground siting of high-voltage electric cables, that may sometimes be seen as no more than a rich country’s whim, is in fact increasingly justified not only for protecting the environment or the health of the public, but for the safety of the electrical systems themselves.

64.- Renewable forms of energy : State of the art and technical outlook.
By Messrs Claude Birraux and Jean-Yves Le Déaut, deputies (2001).
Renewable forms of energy exploited since time immemorial have now been reactivated by modern technology:  the question is whether they are able to make any significant contribution to present-day energy supplies or merely serve as a back-up resource.
 It is to this and many other questions that the report by Mr Jean-Yves Le Déaut, Deputy for Meurthe-et-Moselle, President of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Technological and Scientific Choices (OPECTS), and Mr Claude Birraux, Deputy for Haute-Savoie, vice-President of OPECTS, attempts to find answers.
 The first chapter of the report deals with the following basic issues: “for what, for whom and to what extent should renewable forms of energy be utilised?”  The Rapporteurs take the view that renewable forms of energy can play a major role in giving some two billion people in developing countries access to energy and electricity.  They can also make a substantial contribution in a country like France, not so much in electricity supply as in the home and for transportation.
The second chapter discusses “what priorities should be given in France to the different renewable forms of energy”. The Rapporteurs draw a fundamental distinction between those forms used for electricity generation and those employed for producing heat and fuel.  In France, developments concerning wind power, the use of solar energy by photovoltaic and thermodynamic processes, and high temperature geothermal sources, represent a more important goal for industry and for exports than for supplying the domestic market.  On the other hand “thermal” solar power, heat pumps, bioclimatic dwellings and bio-fuels are of decisive importance to the French economy in terms of reducing dependency on imports as well as cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.
 Chapter 3 examines recent French policies and concludes that there is an urgent need to step up research into renewable forms of energy, to provide French industry with the means to develop and to cope with foreign competition and, finally, to embark on two ambitious incentive schemes, one entitled “Face Sud pour des bio-toits intelligents” [Facing south: the intelligent roof], the other “Terre-Energies pour des biocarburants independents” [Power from the land – an independent supply of bio-fuels].

63.- The prospects of fuel cell technology.
By Messrs Robert Galley and Claude Gatignol, deputies (2001).
Robert Galley and Claude Gatignol have investigated the possible future development of fuel cell technology, the principle of which was discovered as long ago as 1839.
In the 1960’s there was some research into this technique for producing electricity from hydrogen, notably under the impetus of the space programmes as a means of supplying electricity in space vehicles.
Despite various attempts, no applications outside this field have emerged, owing to the predominance of fossil fuels.
However growing attention has been paid to the damage caused to the environment and human health by the emissions resulting from the combustion of these fuels.
Also people are increasingly aware that the reserves of these fuels are necessarily limited, and that their current rate of consumption is such as to hold out the prospect of an ultimate energy shortage, particularly as concerns transport which is highly dependent on oil.
It therefore appears appropriate to begin considering what might take over from the "oil economy", and the fuel cell is one of the possible approaches. The fuel cell has been in the news recently, and indeed at regular intervals its advent is claimed to be imminent.
Accordingly in this publication the two rapporteurs provide a far-reaching study of its true level of development.
The study finally raises a question that is increasingly being discussed: will hydrogen be the power source of the 21st century?

62.- The scientific importance of using genetic fingerprinting in criminal investigations.
By Mr. Christian CABAL, deputy (2001).
Genetic fingerprinting is today one of the most advanced tools in criminal investigation, whether for establishing connections, identifying a victim, finding a suspect or clearing a wrongly accused person. Although in itself it does not provide proof of guilt, it does enable the investigating officer, in conjunction with the other aspects of the enquiry, to reach a conclusion.
It is opportune at this time, without questioning the principle of employing this investigation method - the use of which is steadily increasing - to consider whether the precautions, technical requirements and other miscellaneous aspects that determine its reliability are in fact being required and observed. The issue takes on particular importance in view of the imminent introduction of an automated file system, established in 1998 in respect of sexual crimes and misdemeanours, the field of application of which could shortly be extended to other types of serious crime.
After describing the scientific basis of determining a genetic profile, the legal background to the techniques, and foreign practices, the report lists the technical and hardware problems, the solutions adopted or under consideration, and the links in the chain that deserve special attention, by following the route from the taking of biological samples to the recording of data and the possibilities of cross-frontier exchanges.

61.- The possibilities for the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel.
by Mr Christian Bataille, deputy (2001).
The decision by EDF to reprocess immediately only a portion of the spent fuel discharged each year from its power stations has substantially changed the views held hitherto regarding the management of the tail-end of the nuclear fuel cycle.
It is now essential to consider – even there is no longer any real urgency – the circumstances in which it will be possible safely, at economically reasonable cost, and over the long term, to store fuel that will thus await future reprocessing or definitive storage.
This report completes a series of projects that Mr Christian Bataille has carried out over a period of some ten years in the Office or other bodies of the Assembly concerning the management of civilian and military nuclear wastes, the generation of electricity and the public electricity supply industry.
An appendix to this report also sets out the proceedings of the public hearings held by the Office on 3rd May 2001 to consider the management of nuclear wastes and the long-term storage of non-reprocessed spent fuels.

60.- Space : A political and strategic goal for Europe.
By Mr. Henri Revol, senator (2001).
If Europe is to maintain its strategic independence, it must master space technology. Moving towards such a situation should be the unifying principle of space policy.
The services made available by space techniques in telecommunications, television, navigation, meteorology and earth observation have penetrated all the major sectors of human activities. Their presence in daily life is now completely routine.
As a result the developed countries are in a situation of profound, diverse and absolute dependency on space services, the availability of which is regarded as a matter of fact despite being the product of enormous efforts.
A situation of this kind is dangerous in that it conceals, behind the daily routine, the political and global strategic issues involved in the control of space. It leads to mistaken analyses that dissimulate the global nature of the issue and the responsibility of the public authorities behind sectoral considerations that have now become necessary. In this way we tend to lose sight of a fact which must be affirmed with determination: the mastery of space is one of the bases of the information society and the decisions that affect it are political; they concern the future of Europe, its economic, cultural and political power and, ultimately, its place in the world.
Making permanent the independent access to space that Ariane has given us, acquiring European independence in the field of satellite navigation with the Galileo programme, consolidating the institutional structures of European space, agreeing or refusing to open the Kourou base to foreign launchers – these are some of the major strategic decisions where space confronts the political authorities and that should be clarified by taking a global view of the issues.
It is essential to formulate an energetic space policy and to submit the relevant political decisions for parliamentary discussion, for these choices are important to the national interest in the medium and long term.

59.- Monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Part 2: Converting stocks of military plutonium to civilian use. Utilisation of the aid given to the countries of central and Eastern Europe and to the newly emerging states.
By Mr Claude Birraux, deputy (2001).
On 4 April 2001, the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices adopted the report by Claude Birraux concerning the conversion of military plutonium for civilian purposes, and European assistance regarding the safety of civilian nuclear installations in central and eastern Europe.
At first sight the conversion of military plutonium to civilian use may seem a technical issue; in fact it is highly political, being based upon exemplary and global international co-operation, involving not only the deployment of common funding but also innovative technologies for eliminating or "neutralising" the so-called "surplus" military plutonium in Russia and the United States.
The objective is in fact to make this plutonium – resulting from the decommissioning of nuclear warheads – unsuitable for military use. The report reviews the technological ways and means of achieving this end: immobilisation, or use as a reactor fuel in mixed-oxide (MOX) form or in specific reactors.
In respect of each of these approaches, the report reviews the status of technical and scientific knowledge, the R&D necessary, the funding required, and the medium and long-term timetable.
In this context France possesses proven technologies that can make a decisive contribution to achieving this internationally important objective.
In part 2, Claude Birraux considers the actions taken by the European Union as regards the safety of civilian nuclear installations. Under pressure from member states and the European Court of Auditors, the Commission has adopted a number of proposals aimed at redirecting the policy followed in this field; the question that Claude Birraux attempts to answer is whether they will be sufficient to correct the difficulties that have been observed.

58.- The effects of heavy metals on the environment and on health.
By Mr. Gérard Miquel senator (2001).
On Wednesday 11 April 2001, Mr Gérard MIQUEL, Senator, presented the conclusions of a study by the Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options on the environmental and health effects of heavy metals (mercury, lead and cadmium). This report was a sequel to a debate in the National Assembly on the dangers of mercury in dental amalgam. The rapporteur was supported by a steering committee of scientists. This report had three objectives: to contribute to the public debate, to involve the scientists therein, and to assist decision-making by the political authorities.
I. Dental amalgam
Two materials are used quite legitimately for treating dental caries: dental amalgam (which contains mercury) and composites. Practically no international scientific studies have found any risks related to the release of the mercury. The Tübingen study, well known to those who oppose the use of amalgam, suffers from too many methodological weaknesses to threaten this virtual unanimity. Notwithstanding this, the complaints and fears of patients must be taken into account.
There is no ideal material for treating dental caries. Dental amalgam has therapeutic drawbacks that are too frequently concealed and its use is not always medically justified. Contrary to their training, most dentists do not practice polishing. Finally, any release of mercury, even if it presents no hazard to health, is still a cause of exposure to mercury.
Composites evolve too often for their long-term behaviour to be satisfactorily analysed, are unsuitable for all fillings and, above all, depend upon the skill of the practitioner. In any event the replacement of old amalgams by composites is strongly discouraged since it is during application and removal that the risk of mercury release is highest.
In medical terms, the amalgam-composite argument is a non-event. On the other hand the disadvantages of dental amalgam to the community are undeniable: a situation involving the presence of 100 tonnes of mercury in French mouths, 10 tonnes of mercury discharged every year and 20 tonnes of mercury sediment in pipes, call for precautions. Such precautions, taking the form of amalgam separators, are either inadequate or ineffective. The question remains as to what should be done with the mercury waste collected. The initial conclusions suggest that a major part is sent for incineration …
II. Heavy metals and the environment
Heavy metals are already in the environment. All man can do is modify their concentrations and the ways in which they spread. The trend towards reduced use of heavy metals should be encouraged. However two points deserve special attention.
Recycling. Recycling is in competition with disposal. The rapporteur, who conducted a study on this topic in 1999, prefers the former solution. Eliminating the use of heavy metals is often extremely expensive, and the outcome uncertain. In the absence of appropriate controls, they are often present in imported products; heavy metal wastes persist in old stocks. Finally, products are replaced by new substances that are not always controlled. The rapporteur is in favour of an active waste management policy encompassing two particular points: controlling traffic in batteries to Spain, and improving the collection and recycling of batteries, cadmium accumulators and fluorescent tubes containing mercury.
The spreading of sludge on the land. This issue goes far beyond the single question of heavy metals. The technique of the "slurry spray" and the recurrent food crises demonstrate considerable reticence on the part of farmers. There is no simple conclusion as regards the transfer of heavy metals into plants. The concentrations of cadmium in a given species of wheat vary by factors of 1 to 7 according to variety and 1 to 4 according to the soil. Spreading sludge on land poses a dilemma: either heavy metals migrate into plants and the contamination is a short-term matter, or they remain in the soil in which case the contamination is there for the long term. The continuation of sludge spreading calls for more stringent controls and continued research into transfers.
III. Heavy metals and health
All of us ingest and inhale heavy metals daily. They are present in nature and their common feature is their toxicity. They are not yet known to have any biological function useful to man. Indeed the less of them one has, the better one’s health. This does not mean that there is any danger in ingesting a single microgramme. It is all a question of dose. Two points deserve special attention.
The thresholds. Working out how to calculate thresholds means placing their importance in relative terms since there is considerable uncertainty. Particular care needs to be taken when transposing standards drawn up in one country. When a country does not produce, it obviously wants its imports to contain the least possible amounts of contaminants. If a country does produce, this involves its soil and subsoil meaning that both may contribute doses of contaminants to the products, although without this being hazardous. The French approach is to evaluate risks. In the case of thiomersal for example, a preservative containing mercury, the panic stems from the calculation of mercury in vaccines for babies in the United States. Such a calculation is meaningless here for the simple reason that there is no mercury in baby vaccines in France.
The targets to be given special attention. France is in the initial stage of understanding heavy metals, with a wide and reassuring panorama, but attention should now be focused on the populations and sites exposed to risk: estuaries, the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and, primarily, the overseas territories. The unduly high ingestion of the populations of the overseas territories – between +15% and +50% according to the metal concerned – is the result of there being no waste management policy. Actions targeted on a few groups at risk will always be more effective and less costly than the global standards-based approach. Eliminating lead pipes will cost 70 billion French francs for a practically negligible result, while there are much more serious instances of poisoning that also exist. Instead of chaotic actions on a step-by-step basis, sometimes going along with the exposure of problems in the media, the rapporteur calls for priorities to be defined: for example the lead in paint in old buildings, or the poisoning of the public by mercury.
The report concludes with a whole series of recommendations including the polishing of amalgam, the replacement of lead shot by non-toxic ammunition for hunting, an audit of the ways in which health checks are carried out on imports, the archiving of soil specimens, and so on.

57.- The conditions governing the installation of a new synchrotron and the role of very large state and private research facilities, both in France and in Europe.
Book II: The role of very large state and private research facilities, in France and in Europe.
By Messrs Christian Cuvilliez, deputy, and René Trégouët, senator (2000).
Which are the very large scientific research facilities (VLRF) and what role do they play in state and private research in France and in Europe? What are the foreseeable needs in this field? What are the present decision-making and funding procedures and how can they be improved? In what way could their construction and operation be given enhanced support by business undertakings and the European Union?
These are some of the questions answered by Mr Christian CUVILLIEZ, Deputy and Mr René TRÉGOUËT, Senator, following their earlier study on the conditions governing the installation of a new synchrotron published in March 2000.
The reader is first given an introduction to large research facilities: there is a presentation – that does not claim to be exhaustive – covering first a number of large facilities already in service, some of which appear in the current list and, secondly, some of the schemes drawn up by the researchers themselves.
The Rapporteurs then suggest that the various large facilities should be subdivided into three categories they devise for the purpose: very large facilities intended to advance a particular subject, those concerned with infrastructure, and those concerned with major programmes.
This classification is used to define ways and means of decision-making and funding adapted to each particular case, since all the major facilities currently necessitate a policy of close co-operation with the scientific community and continuous action over time.
Pointing out the need to elucidate prospects for future schemes not only for reasons of the necessary capital expenditure but also with a view to recruiting young researchers, Messrs Christian CUVILLIEZ and René TRÉGOUËT call for an overall review of the status of research at the opening of the 21st century, encompassing the public, the scientific community and elected representatives, in order to identify the plans and organisation of French research over the coming decades, the proposals of which could form part of a planning law reflecting the Contract of Objectives for French research at the beginning of the 21st century.

56.- The resources necessary for improving the safety of French road and rail tunnels.
Mr Christian Kert, M.P. (2000).
Subsequent to the disaster in the Mont Blanc Tunnel, which was followed two months later by that in the Tauern Tunnel in Austria, the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices was instructed to conduct a study of "the resources necessary for improving the safety of French road and rail tunnels".
The rapporteur, Mr Christian Kert, following the publication of the technical reports requested by the Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Housing, made a point of meeting their authors before actually visiting those tunnels that appeared to be the oldest and most hazardous. He visited a number of tunnels in neighbouring countries, carrying traffic flows comparable with those in France, and met the transport professionals as well as those responsible for the emergency, life-saving and industrial services in the sector.
On completion of this study, which had taken several months, he felt able to draw up a report: this was fairly pessimistic about the condition of a number of tunnels and concluded that transport policy should be rethought in its entirety, on the grounds that the present "all by road" approach was inexorably increasing the hazards on bridges and in tunnels.
The rapporteur also expressed his concern and reservations about the measures being proposed for bringing about the reopening of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, believing them to be broadly inadequate whereas they should, on the contrary, have provided an example for all other such structures.

55.- Monitoring safety and security in nuclear installations.
Part 1: Review of incidents that occurred at the Blayais nuclear power plant during the storm on 27th December 1999 : information on the risk of flooding of nuclear installations.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. (2000).
During the night of 27-28 December 1999, waves from the Gironde estuary washed over the dikes protecting the Blayais nuclear power plant and flooded the basements of two of the station’s fuel buildings.
As a result of this incident, which was classified at level 2 on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES), two of the four units of the Blayais nuclear power plant were shut down.
Since 10 May 1990, Claude Birraux, deputy, has been tasked by the French Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices (OPECST) on an annual basis, with reviewing, amongst other things, "the reliability of the emergency arrangements provided inside and outside nuclear installations".
From an analysis of this "emergency" it appeared to Mr Birraux that, quite apart from the polemics and controversies it raised, the lessons to be learned about the safety and security of civilian nuclear installations went well beyond the particular problems encountered during the storm. For example, shortcomings in the arrangements for protecting civil nuclear installations against the risk of flooding were demonstrated. Accordingly he wanted to provide an initial review as soon as possible, without waiting for the final conclusions of the experts, since a number of recommendations had to be implemented at once.
This is entirely in line with the approach of the Parliamentary Office. It is a question not of contributing to a polemic but of attempting calmly to review and qualify this incident, and identify any lessons to be learned.

54. Towards a European research facility for understanding the new economy.
Mr Pierre Laffitte, senator (2000).
Europe is lagging considerably behind the United States in research and innovation, a strategic and essential factor in the development of the new economy.
Three major indicators confirm that this lag is getting worse:
in Europe the numbers of researchers and trained innovators are declining;
Europe is no longer attracting researchers from elsewhere and finds itself unable to retain its own;
the funding of research and development, particularly in companies, is weak; the difference between the situation in United States and that in Europe is widening every year.
Moreover the multilateral arrangements for supporting research and development in Europe are in crisis:
the framing programme managed by the European Community is no longer appropriate. Its procedures are difficult to comprehend, expensive to access and too long; they are frequently quite unsuitable for companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, and for many laboratories;
the Eureka initiative, which is much appreciated by its users for its speed, ease of use and confidentiality, is declining as a result of insufficient contributions from its partners.
A new impetus and general mobilisation are necessary. Fortunately, this view is partly shared by the European Commissioners most concerned: Philippe Busquin and Erkki Liikanen.
Based upon a review of the causes and effects of these phenomena, the report by Pierre Laffitte, the founder of Sophia Antipolis, puts forward novel proposals that are aimed at reinserting European research and development and its markets into the "new worldwide economy".

53. Conditions governing the location of a new synchrotron and the role of very large facilities in state and private research in France and in Europe.
Volume I : The conditions governing the location of a new synchrotron.

Mr Christian Cuvilliez, M.P. and Mr René Trégouët, senator (2000).

What is a synchrotron? What is the radiation it produces used for? Why is it an important scientific issue? What is the position of France in this field, and what is the best national or European solution for replacing the obsolete LURE synchrotron and providing French research with the up-to-date resources it needs ?
These are some of the questions answered by this report by the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices.
For the purposes of their report, the Rapporteurs of the Office, Messrs Christian CUVILLIEZ, deputy, and René TRÉGOUËT, senator, established a working group made up of ten eminent scientists involved in government, university and industrial research and holding contrasting views as to the best decision to be taken regarding this controversial question.
Together with these scientists the Rapporteurs questioned over forty experts that utilise synchrotron radiation, as well as French and European scientific leaders, on this subject.
The report contains transcripts of these interviews, during which the biggest names in French science gave their views on this question. A report on the public hearings held in the National Assembly on 2nd March 2000 is also included.
Finally, to collect concrete information about synchrotrons, the Rapporteurs visited the LURE installations in Orsay, the ESRF in Grenoble, the British SRS synchrotron at Daresbury and the Deutsche Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg. Information on what they found there is also included.
It was on the basis of this comprehensive information and after soliciting the views of all concerned that on completion of these investigations the report by Messrs CUVILLIEZ and TRÉGOUËT, unanimously adopted by the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices, concludes that it is essential for a clear decision regarding the construction of a national synchrotron to be taken without delay.
This report is the first volume of a wider study the Parliamentary Office has devoted to the role of very large systems in government and private research in France and in Europe.

52. The impact of nuclear waste storage facilities on public health and the environment.
Mrs Michèle RIVASI, M.P. (2000).
Opinion polls regularly raise the subject of nuclear waste as being a matter of concern for the French public. It is reasonable to ask what impact nuclear waste storage facilities have on public health and the environment.
Considering that discharges into the environment form an integral part of the wastes produced by nuclear installations, the present report begins by noting the wastes discharged from and stored at the different types of installation: waste and mining spoil storage centres, reprocessing plants and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) centres.
Studies of how these installations affect public health and the environment are then reviewed.
Finally the report examines the scientific and technical advances necessary together with the legal and institutional improvements that the present situation merits.
As far as discharges into the environment are concerned, the report proposes particular topics that deserve investigation if a strategy of dilution and dispersion is gradually to be replaced by a strategy of concentration-retention in the form of solid wastes.
In this connection, although the law of 30 December 1991 laid down the basis of the effective management of wastes of high or intermediate activity, the situation is different for wastes of low or very low activity, and the report stresses the importance of introducing systems that are adapted to each category of waste.
Finally the report deals with the transfer into national legislation of the new European Directive No. 96/29 on radiation protection, and proposes guidelines for the two important questions of the release and exemption thresholds.
Besides these important but specific matters, the report marshals the arguments in favour of setting up a national radioactive waste management scheme that would improve the transparency and overall effectiveness of the initiatives taken by the public authorities and the different operators.

51. Cloning, cell therapy and the therapeutic use of embryo cells.
Mr Alain Claeys, M.P. and Mr Claude Huriet, senator (2000).

Decisive therapeutic advances are expected from the types of human embryo cells recently isolated, in replacing damaged tissue and organs and treating serious chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and so on. The possible production of these cells by cloning would also make it possible to resolve the problems of rejection routinely encountered in transplant surgery.
A pertinent question is whether these scientific advances justify changing the rules under which very strict limits are placed on research and experiments in France concerned with the human embryo.
Parliament will be faced with this question during the forthcoming review of the law of 29 July 1994, and it is to provide relevant background information that this report reviews knowledge and practices in the field of cloning and cell therapy.
Cloning is considered from the standpoint of its therapeutic applications, for example the production of pharmaceutical proteins or of organs that are "humanised" by means of genetic transfer, or the – as yet hypothetical – creation of immuno-compatible embryo cells.
As regards cell therapy, the study draws a distinction between applications that have already been proved (strains of haematopoietic cells, and skin grafts) experiments now in progress (grafts of hepatocytes, pancreatic cells and foetal neurones) and the prospects opened up by such cells whether taken from the embryo or the adult organism. Some recent discoveries concerning the plasticity of adult cells highlight the need for multi-disciplinary research to determine which category of base cells – embryonic or adult – will be the most appropriate for treating different types of pathology.
After describing the commercial strategies now being applied in the English-speaking world and analysing the legislative easing now under consideration in the United States and the United Kingdom, the report describes the legal, economic and financial measures that have already been or could be taken to enable French research to compete internationally.

50. Genomics and information technology : The impact on therapy and on the pharmaceuticals industry.
Mr Franck Sérusclat, senator (1999).
The science of genomics – the exhaustive investigation of genomes and indeed of all genes – will play an essential role in the 21st century.
Based upon biological information technology, it offers a wide range of possibilities in medicine and pharmacology; the use of proteins in pharmaceutical research; gene therapy; genic vaccination; pharmaco-genomics (adapting treatment to the genetic characteristics of the patient); molecular diagnostics of infectious diseases and of genetic predispositions, using "biochips", and so on.
The present report describes all these new technologies that should make it possible to treat the causes of diseases rather than their symptoms.
It also lists the choices that will have to be made if France is to benefit from the genomic revolution, while controlling its consequences.
As far as research is concerned, it stresses the need very rapidly to develop the study of proteins and to bring about the production of French biochips.
In the industrial field, it reviews the aid available to new businesses in biotechnology concerned with bio-incubators and biological research centres; it also tackles the strategic problem of patents.
Finally, examining the problems that biology in the 21st century will put before our society, it sets out ambitious recommendations for the professional training that will have to be provided.
As far as predictive medicine is concerned, it calls for caution and suggests preserving the right not to know and the right not to pass on knowledge.
During the 20th century France was able to mobilise its resources so as successfully to take up the scientific, technical and industrial challenges of power and speed. The issues in the life sciences are of equal importance; within this vast field the questions of health and therapeutics will occupy a major place in our society.
Those with political responsibility, at every level, must encourage genomics in order to provide our country with the resources it needs to find its place in this sector.

49. New techniques for recycling and recovering domestic refuse and ordinary industrial wastes.
Mr. Gérard Miquel, senator and Mr. Serge Poignant, M.P. (1999).
The waste issue has now come of age. The techniques have evolved and industry is prepared. The French people have shown that they wanted to take part in separate waste collection systems and that they knew how to do it. All is change. Now is the time to make choices.
These choices are rendered difficult by ingrained habits, the fear of higher costs, and the highly technical nature of the subject.
Under the provisions of the law of 13 July 1992, landfilling will cease to be a normal method of dealing with domestic refuse as from 1 July 2002 and will subsequently be kept only for final wastes.
The question is what will be done with these wastes of which nearly 50% are today still used for landfill.
Every successive government since 1992 has made clear its determination to focus on actions aimed at encouraging recovery and recycling, because these wastes are also a source of secondary raw materials that local authorities and industry can and should recover, with four complementary objectives :
— to preserve natural resources for future generations ;
— to work for the environment ;
— to create economic activities and jobs ;
— to have our fellow countrymen take part in a beneficial collective action.
This report does not claim to provide the answers to all the questions facing our elected representatives as regards the tricky problem of dealing with domestic refuse and ordinary industrial wastes. The answers vary from one region to another, according to the quantities to be dealt with, the type of wastes and the industrial landscape. This report describes all the techniques for treating and recovering domestic refuse and ordinary industrial wastes that are known and accessible today. It has been devised primarily as a guide to help decision-making.

48. Techniques for predicting and preventing natural hazards in France.
Mr. Christian Kert, M.P. (1999).
Following an initial report devoted to the prediction and prevention of earthquakes and ground movements, Mr. Christian Kert has extended his study to the other forms of natural disaster : storms, cyclones, avalanches, floods, droughts, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, to which he has added the collapse of mine workings which, although a result of human activities, has very similar consequences.
Adhering to his own particular method, Mr. Christian Kert collected a great deal of his information from more than 300 leading figures through interviews in metropolitan France, the French overseas territories and other countries.
Although current scientific knowledge is still unable satisfactorily to provide answers to all the questions raised by natural disasters, it is still already possible to propose a number of measures with the potential significantly to improve the situation of those of our fellow countrymen who are exposed to them.

47. Monitoring safety and security in nuclear installations.
Part 2 : A review of safety policy for nuclear installations and the outlook for the future.
Mr. Claude Birraux, M.P. (1999).
This year the report on the safety and security of nuclear installations presented by Claude Birraux consists of a self-examination of the role of a parliamentary body. Since 1990, eight reports have been published, totalling 15 volumes and 4587 pages, and setting out 118 proposals. By this means the Parliamentary Office has looked into every question affecting nuclear safety and security.
The report presented today is based upon answers to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Office, consciously trying to avoid merely setting out lists, and it identifies the prospects for improvements and greater thoroughness.
Of the 118 proposals drawn up by Claude Birraux since 1990, 73 have been or are being put into effect.
It would be presumptuous and even stupid to claim that any positive decisions would stem solely from the determination of OPECST (the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices), because the decision-making processes of the state are complex. Notwithstanding this, the interventions by the Office have contributed to decisions that are favourable to safety : the creation of the DSIN, the conversion of the SCPRI into the OPRI, the radiation protection bureau in the DGS, the radiological protection and medical monitoring of temporary workers, guidance for research into incineration, and the Rubbia project.
Even when the recommendations of the Office have not been taken up, as for those concerning the countries of central and eastern Europe, the relevance and fairness of the analyses done have been confirmed by events. The criticisms made by the European Board of Auditors in 1998 were already set out in the 1992 OPECST report.

46. Application of law no. 94-654 of 29 July 1994 concerning the donation of human body parts and products, medical assistance with reproduction, and prenatal diagnosis.
Mr. Alain Claeys, M.P. and Mr. Claude Huriet, Senator (1999).
The outcome of a referral for which the law itself makes provision, this report is a landmark in the activities of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices.
It is based upon some forty interviews that took place between May and December 1998 and also takes into account the views recently emanating from various authorities (the Council of State, the National Consultative Committee on Ethics, the Academy of Medicine, the European Ethics Group, and so on).
It seeks to identify problems of application (related in particular to the delay in issuing regulations) without prejudicing any future decisions by the government, and puts forward possible solutions.
With regard to transplants, the main emphasis is placed on the need for better informing donors and acceptors, the law’s unsuitability in respect of new transplant techniques, the value of European co-operation in health and safety, and the lack of clarity of the rules governing the taking of organs both for therapeutic purposes and for medical and scientific reasons. Medical support for reproduction is analysed, notably as regards the far-reaching changes resulting from the development of ICSI, an in vitro fertilisation technique for which there was no prior experimentation, the problems raised by the existence of large number of embryos and the choices available to the government in terms of embryo research having regard to recent scientific progress.
The report stresses the inadequacy of the controls placed on establishments and practitioners. It concludes by stressing the need for international and European co-operation aimed at harmonising both principles and procedures.

45. The downstream side of the nuclear fuel cycle (Tome II : Electricity generating costs).
Mr. Christian Bataille and Mr. Robert Galley, M.P.’s (1999).

As part of the Office’s continuing work in the nuclear field, Mr. Christian Bataille and Mr. Robert Galley, Members of Parliament for the Nord and Aube départements respectively, published in June 1998 the first part of their investigation into the downstream side of the nuclear fuel cycle, focusing on the work done in application of the law of 30 December 1991 concerning research into radioactive waste management.
This document supplements that initial technical approach with a technical and economic study of the costs of generating electricity.
To begin with, the performance of existing nuclear generating plant is examined, in particular the past, present and future contributions of this plant to the growth and competitivity of the French economy.
Secondly, the competitivity of the different generating systems is analysed with a view to the construction of new facilities, using the method of discounted average costs which is at present the standard approach governing investment decisions, and identifying the different ways in which the said systems are dealt with as regards the cost categories considered.
The potential contributions of external factor analysis and the calculation of external costs are then reviewed in order to evaluate the advantages and drawbacks of the different electricity generating systems on a more global basis.
The report includes more than a hundred tables of data and cost curves upon which the Rapporteurs base their comments, conclusions and recommendations.

44. From understanding genes to making use of them (Part I : vols. I and II).
Mr. Jean-Yves Le Déaut,
M.P. (1998).
The biotechnologies actually came into being several thousand years ago when man began to make cheese, beer and bread using micro-organisms.
These foodstuffs are routinely consumed without ever giving rise to particular concern. Pasteur improved the processes and everybody -apart from the Americans- appreciates cheese made from raw milk.
The advent of genetically modified plants overturned the trusting relationship that existed between French people and their food. These plants, and particularly the foodstuffs made from them, are causing great concern to our compatriots in that they are regarded as presenting a very large number of hazards to health and the environment. " It’s not natural " some people think. But one may ask whether the agro-food business had not already made its own contribution by making up cooked dishes using products consisting of mixtures of many basic components, additives, preservatives, and so on.
In this report, Jean-Yves Le Déaut has tried to dedramatise the subject. With the greatest objectivity he has looked into all the consequences for our society of this explosion in the life sciences. One of his innovations has been to convene the first "conference of citizens", as a face-to-face meeting between experts and ordinary people.
For this purpose, over a period of eight months, he listened to, consulted, interviewed and questioned anyone with an opinion on this subject who wanted to be heard.
Taking all these views into account he then himself adopted a position on a number of topics : the possible effects of these plants on the environment, human health, the future of agriculture, and the situation of developing countries. He has identified the issues and looked into peoples’ fears and concerns.
This book ends with a large number of recommendations aimed at ensuring that the introduction of these plants, the product of human intelligence, takes place in a transparent and democratic manner.

43. The downstream side of the fuel cycle (tome I).
Mr. Christian Bataille and Mr.Robert Galley, M.P.’s (1998).
Continuing in the spirit of previous reports from the "Office sur l'Energie Nucléaire" [Nuclear Energy Office], Mr. Christian Bataille, parliamentary deputy from the Nord département, and Mr. Robert Galley, deputy from Aube, are pursuing their task of bringing information and transparency to the national study of the downstream side of the fuel cycle. This assignment began in 1989: it provided the essential basis for the Law of December 30th 1991 on research into radioactive waste management, and continued with another report on civilian radioactive waste and on military waste.
Halfway through the 15-year period allowed by the 1991 Law for determining what type of organisation should be set up, Messrs Bataille and Galley have pooled their nuclear experience in order to carry out a detailed examination of the results obtained as regards isotopic separation-transmutation, the study of reversible and irreversible deep underground storage, and of conditioning and long-term surface storage.
The technical analysis presented here will be supplemented by a second volume setting out an economic approach to the downstream side of the nuclear fuel cycle, the objective being a preliminary outline of the criteria that will govern the inevitable decisions to be taken in the year 2006.

42. Investigation into the safety and security of nuclear installations ; the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) : technology, safety, standardization and technical aspects (tome I : vols. I and II).
Mr. Claude Birraux, M.P. (1998).
The report presented to you sets out the first part of the work by Mr Claude Birraux on the safety of nuclear installations.
This is the eighth occasion on which the rapporteur for the "Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques (OPECST) [Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of choices in science and technology] has reviewed the continuous challenge represented by the search for the highest level of safety that is humanly possible in the field of the safety of nuclear installations.
This task is in two parts: the first, consisting of these two volumes, is forward-looking, and involves analysing the scientific, safety and economic issues raised by the Franco-German project for a pressurised water reactor (EPR) intended to take the place of the nuclear power plants currently in service, as from the year 2010. The second, which will be covered in two other volumes to be submitted for appraisal by OPECST towards the end of the year, will review the situation regarding the implementation of the 118 recommendations made in the seven previous reports on the safety of nuclear installations; it will thus identify those areas in which progress is being made, as well as those where there is none. The parliamentary Office considered that it was important to evaluate the approach and the substantial amount of work done in recent years in a field so sensitive as concerns public opinion.

41. The development of research into the management of high activity nuclear wastes (Volume II: Military wastes).
Mr. Christian Bataille, M.P. ( 1997)
Following on from a first volume devoted to nuclear wastes from civilian installations, the second volume of the report is concerned with the nuclear wastes produced by national defence programmes, and the effects of the nuclear tests carried out in Polynesia.
While the present-day management of military nuclear wastes does not appear to pose any intractable problems, the lack of any final storage solution is likely to lead to difficulties in the longer term.
Accordingly this report recalls that it is important that the arrangements and timetable laid down by the Act of 30 December 1991 on research into the management of high activity nuclear wastes should be applied rigorously and fully, and that appropriate methods for the definitive storage of other categories of radioactive wastes should be actively sought.

40. Synthetic images and virtual reality: Techniques and issues of society.
Mr. Claude Huriet, senator (1997).
What is a synthetic image? How is it produced? What use is it? What impact do the new imaging technologies and the confrontations between the real and the virtual world have on our society?
This report reviews different features of synthetic images, for example the technical, industrial, commercial, legal, psychological, political and other aspects.
A revolution is taking place. The potential for developing and using these technologies is extraordinary. However technology is evolving faster than our attitudes. Paradoxically, it is precisely as images are taking an increasingly important role in our communications society that it is becoming less and less reliable, because digital technology allows us to create the image we want, with the result that we are likely to consider the image as no more ... than an image in fact, not necessarily with any link to reality. The image professionals are maintaining a certain reserve with regard to this situation. All that remains is to widen the circle of the "experts". This is not without certain difficulties, so fixed are our ways of thinking in a culture that popular common sense expresses by the old adage: "I only believe what I can see".
In order to tackle this revolution in the best possible way, OPECST recommends an "image" learning process: educating, raising awareness, ensuring action, "acting so as to understand reality, and acting so as to understand the virtual world".
OPECST would like the public at large to consider these issues and the possibility of establishing a national committee on computer ethics; this would resemble what has happened in bioethics, another field characterised by the rapid expansion of knowledge and technology and their impact on the relationships between man and society.

39. Asbestos in the human environment: its consequences and its future.
Mr Jean-Yves Le Déaut, M.P., and Henri Revol, senator (1997).
Asbestos is a toxic and carcinogenic substance present everywhere in our environment.
This report from the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices reviews current scientific knowledge without evading the uncertainties that persist.
Since 1 January 1997, the use of asbestos has been banned in our country. Notwithstanding this, the problem of asbestos remains unresolved.
An overall inventory of all the asbestos present in our buildings and our environment must be drawn up in order to determine what actions will be necessary and in what order of priority. The treatment and removal of asbestos require great care and the report underlines the quality necessary wherever asbestosis is involved. It also considers the methods to be used for processing asbestos wastes.
Prior consideration must be given to those suffering from asbestos-related diseases and to everyone that has been exposed to this hazard. The report therefore sets out ways and means of ensuring that the necessary public health measures can be given priority.

38. The new information and communications technologies: from the schoolchild to the man in the street.
Mr Franck Sérusclat, senator (1997).
For a number of years, the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices has taken an interest in the impact of the new information and communications technologies on the daily life of the public. This new report considers the use of these tools for educational and civic purposes.
What should be the place and the functions of the computer, and the role of networks, in every school curriculum? As regards education, the report stresses how the present situation can give rise to inequalities: there is no generalisation of local initiatives.
However there is a need for a determined policy, in this field as in that of civics: the objective of a democracy is to create the conditions in which a member of the public not only receives respect, but can also participate in the political life of the country. Using the new information and communications technologies is a prerequisite for the development of political life. The issues raised by networks are far more than any technical problem: in the future neither the role of the press nor the public’s way of thinking will be the same.

37. Monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. (Study VII, 1997).
In 1993 Professor Carlo Rubbia, winner of the Nobel Prize for physics, announced an original design for a nuclear reactor, which was supposed to produce electricity at a competitive price while minimising the production of radioactive wastes. Is this machine really likely to meet mankind’s energy needs in the near future? Mr Claude Birraux, deputy for Haute-Savoie, contrasts the major options of the Rubbia project with the imperatives of safety, radiation protection, non-proliferation, and so on. He shows that the choices made by Carlo Rubbia should be explored further, while being careful not to underestimate the time and money necessary for the possible development of an entirely new type of nuclear reactor.
The maintenance of nuclear reactors is an essential factor in safety; it necessitates faultless organisation and a rigorous approach. Has the reform of maintenance started by EDF in 1990 produced results? Does the use of external contractors introduce slackness and risk? Can the radiation protection of these outside workers be properly managed? A year of investigations in the field shows that the efforts must be continued, even though appreciable progress can be seen.

36. The prospects for developing non-food agricultural products.
Mr Robert Galley, M.P. (1997).
For a number of years, agriculture in the developed countries has had to cope with great difficulties in marketing its food products as a result of substantial advances in the industry’s productivity, and changes in food habits.
The Common Agricultural Policy’s answer to this problem has been to withdraw land from production. This approach does not appear to be a real solution in view of its inherent threat of producing wasteland, and the confusion it has caused amongst farmers.
Other outputs for agricultural production should therefore be given consideration.
One answer appears to be the development of non-food agricultural products.
Another argument in favour of exploring this avenue is that it would certainly be conducive to preserving the environment. It would also be useful preparation for the future in making it possible gradually to meet the challenge of the inevitable scarcity of fossil raw materials.

35. France and the information society: a warning and a necessary crusade.
Mr. Pierre Laffitte, senator (1997).
The advent of the information society is a revolution probably more important than that of the industrial society.
Radical changes - such as the accelerated globalisation of the economy, the destruction of existing structures and jobs, the questioning of the established hierarchies, the collision of cultures and the leadership of some of them, together with universal access to knowledge and the creation of new skills, new wealth and new jobs - have begun and are intensifying. There will be both winners and losers.
Fifteen years ago, France was in the leading group. We are now falling behind and the gap is rapidly widening. However we still possess advantages and skills.
We must all respond, otherwise decline is assured in terms of a fragile economy, increased unemployment, and cultural subordination. The public authorities must set the example by embarking on reforms, adapting and beginning the necessary crusade. After all, politics is primarily a matter of determination, both forward-looking and tenacious.

34. Developments in research into the management of high activity nuclear wastes - (volume I: civilian wastes).
Mr Christian Bataille, M.P. (1996).
Five years after the publication of the Office’s first report on the management of high activity nuclear wastes, the conclusions of which were largely incorporated in the Act of 30 December 1991, Mr Christian Bataille attempts to assess progress in the different avenues of research that parliament had proposed.
Although in general the will of parliament seems to have been fairly well respected, it nevertheless appears that the orientation of research programmes will have to take into account recent changes in the design of the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle.
Adhering to the same approach as he used in his earlier reports on this subject, Mr Christian Bataille reiterates that this particularly sensitive issue can only be handled in a transparent and democratic manner and that he will demand continuity, adaptation and coherence from all concerned, including the public authorities.
The second volume of the report will consider the problems posed by military nuclear wastes.

33. Monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. (Study VI, 1996).
Should we fear the effects of low doses of ionising radiation? Radiation protection standards are soon to be raised: is this justified by recent scientific progress? Mr Claude Birraux, deputy for Haute Savoie, presents the issues of a difficult but fascinating debate. He also points out some of its shortcomings and recalls that a solely scientific approach avoids the real issues.
How are radioactive wastes to be managed in a rigorous manner, including those whose activity is very low? Do we know how satisfactorily to control the hazards of mining tailings, even in the very long term? A year’s investigations, interviews and visits have shown that solutions that may be satisfactory from the technical standpoint must also take into account their social context if they are to be fully acceptable.

32. The links between health and the environment, particularly in children.
Mr Jean-François Mattéi, M.P. (1996).
One knows intuitively that there is a link between health and the environment: when living conditions are poor, there is a greater risk of developing certain diseases.
However Jean-François Mattéi goes beyond this routine view and adopts an essentially humanist approach.
He sees the human being as an entity in which body and mind are irretrievably bound up together: indeed he does not only consider the physical attacks from which the body suffers but also seeks to denounce the ugliness or infinite depression of many environments, that can be regarded as veritable attacks on the mind.
He also pushes back the boundaries of the definitions of disease by considering social practices such as violence or drug taking to be morbid symptoms.
Producing this survey focused on the men, women and children of tomorrow required interviews with several dozen specialists. It attempts a synthesis of a large number of specialities that are still far too compartmentalised.
It concludes that there is a need to formulate a system of eco-ethics which - together with bio-ethics, another field of consideration for Jean-François Mattéi – could be the basis for the political action of tomorrow.

31. Techniques for predicting and preventing natural hazards : earthquakes and landslips.
Mr Christian Kert, M.P. (1995).
What is an earthquake? Is it possible to predict earthquakes? What is the VAN method? Could a major earthquake ever occur in France? How effective are the preventive measures? Emergency plans have been prepared: are they effective?
In view of the Kobé earthquake last January, and after meeting a number of leading figures both in France and abroad, Mr Christian Kert, deputy for Bouches-du-Rhône, rapporteur for the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices, reviews these questions and a number of other issues in this report on "Techniques for predicting and preventing natural hazards: earthquakes and landslips".
One task of the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices is to inform and propose; this report contributes to this aspect of the Office’s work.

30. The new techniques of information and communication: man in cyberspace.
Mr Franck Sérusclat, senator (1995).
The new information and communications technologies, particularly networks, are in the process of profoundly changing the way man’s life is organised both in space and time. The substantial impact of this "digital revolution" encompasses all human activities: the organisation of civic life, the organisation of work, leisure and culture, access to medical care, individual and collective freedoms, and so on.
For the first time, parliament is embarking on a far-reaching consideration of all these aspects, including the technical features that are essential to make them accessible to the greatest possible number of people, quite apart from the social consequences. The aim of this report is to inform members of parliament and, beyond them, the public, about a development that will require adaptations to the law and regulations; this is one of the tasks incumbent upon the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices.

29. Monitoring nuclear installations and safety.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. (Study V, December 1994).
In about twenty years, a start will have to be made on decommissioning EDF’s major nuclear power stations. Are the strategies adopted suitable? Are the necessary techniques available? How will decommissioning be funded? Are we ready to meet the challenges of this "major project"?
All nuclear installations discharge radioactive substances into the environment. How are these discharges monitored? Is their impact on the environment and human health well understood?
Such are the main questions to which this report - a sequel to four earlier studies - seeks to provide answers.

28. The issues of co-operation and exchanges of technology with the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Mr Henri Revol, senator (1994).
The scars that an unbalanced and paralysing mode of technological development left behind are reopening as a result of the political and economic chaos affecting the countries of central and eastern Europe.
The western world, and in particular the European Union, has declared its desire to ensure the success of the current transition process in these countries.
What are the facts of the matter? What obstacles will face the indispensable technological modernisation of the eastern countries? What would happen if we did not manage to find ways of enabling them to achieve this objective?
The purpose of this report is to present these issues: it provides some illustrations from different sectors - health, energy, nuclear power, space, and so on - and suggests a recasting of the policies applied to countries most of which should no longer be qualified as "eastern" except for terminological simplicity.

27. Developments in the semiconductor and microelectronics industry.
Mr Charles Descours, senator (1994).
Semiconductors are an essential part of the microelectronics industry: these components are needed to produce computers, telecommunications systems, and motor vehicles. In 1993 the semiconductor market was worth about 86 billion dollars.
At present Europe’s share of world output is declining. What is worse, the rate of cover of the European market is also down. The United States and Asia on the other hand are reinforcing their positions. In view of the capital costs involved (1 plant costs a billion dollars) it is necessary to find substantial sources of finance.
The question is whether Europe will be able, drawing on the experience of its competitors, to continue its research, to invest and produce key components that are essential for industrial competitivity.

26. Scientific co-operation with the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Mr Jacques Sourdille, senator (1994).
Scientific and technological co-operation with the countries of central and Eastern Europe has so far remained a largely misunderstood subject that had not yet been the subject of an overall study.
Mr Jacques Sourdille, senator, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices, has tried to evaluate the true impact of the policies in this field pursued within the Community and in the principal countries of western Europe, based upon interviews with over 350 people involved in this kind of co-operation.
Because of the complexity of this question, a three-stage analysis was developed in order:
to measure the influence of the past, so as to take into account the delays and problems of implementing a new system ;
to gain a better understanding of the transitional situation that has emerged in these countries since the destruction of the Berlin wall, and to analyse the extent of the changes that have taken place there, and the initial reforms ;
and, finally, to outline the policy that should now be applied after several years of hesitation and false starts.

25. The orientations of research policy.
Mr Robert Galley, M.P. and Mr Jacques Mossion, senator (1994).
In parallel with the national consultation on research organised by Mr François Fillon, Minister for Research, the Office has considered the major objectives of French research, at the request of the Bureau of the National Assembly.
These considerations, enhanced by interviews with those responsible for public and industrial research, resulted in an assessment of the minister’s "Report on French research".
In an attempt to be constructive, the Office added proposals for additional avenues of research.
This was the first time that the Office had given an overall view on scientific and technological choices.

24. The response of the new transport technologies to the saturation problems on the north/south routes.
Mr Jean-Marie Demange, M.P., and Mr Pierre Vallon, senator (1994).
There is a danger that the increase in road traffic and its concentration on high-speed roads will shortly lead, particularly along the north-south axis, to congestion that will be intolerable both to users and those living nearby.
In their report, Messrs Jean-Marie Demange, deputy, and Pierre Vallon, senator, note that it will be increasingly difficult to create new roads, review certain technical innovations that should lead to better use of the road system, to greater use of other modes of transport, and to combined forms of transport.
In this way technical advances could bring original approaches into transport policy, avoiding the extremes of interventionist authoritarianism and "masterly inaction", both of which are unacceptable in the present state of our society and our economy.

23. Monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. (Study IV, February 1994).
Every year 300,000 radioactive packages travel through France. How is the safety of this transport ensured and monitored?
Nearly 30,000 externally contracted staff work in EDF’s nuclear power stations. Why do some of them have no proper health physics and medical follow-up? Superphénix has been shut down since July 1990. Will it ever be restarted? If so, in what conditions and for what purpose?
In his fourth report, Mr Claude Birraux has adhered to his usual principles: to observe without complacency, to report objectively, and to evaluate without prejudice and also without seeking to take the place of the authorities responsible for monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
There is no doubt that over the last four years this "monitoring of the monitoring" by a fully independent parliamentary body has contributed to improving transparency in a field about which it is now essential that everyone should be fully informed.

22. The importance of electric vehicles in terms of environmental protection.
Mr Pierre Laffitte senator (1993).
This report examines in turn the ecological, energy, economic, political and social issues raised by the electric vehicle, then reviews the state of the art as regards this new mode of transport, assesses its economic competitivity and identifies the forms of public aid necessary to bring it to the stage of normal commercial marketing.
The report’s conclusions are unambiguous:
The electric car is a major innovation which has undoubted importance from the point of view of the environment.
France is in a good position, with its dynamic automobile industry, to pick up this challenge.
However, more research is needed, mainly to improve the performance of the power storage system.
An essential prerequisite is to develop evaluation, testing and a standardisation centre, and to make provision for a far-reaching programme of public information.
Finally, only a determined policy on the part of the public authorities will ensure rapid success of the electric vehicle.
The report also contains a technical annexe covering the components and technologies involved in the vehicle: batteries, fuel cells, electric motors, hybrid vehicles and recent technological innovations.

21. Problems raised by the management of hospital wastes.
Mr Michel Destot, M.P. (1993).
With more and more medical wastes being found abandoned on the public roads or disposed of on dumps, there has been increasing and quite legitimate concern in recent years about the health risks of this type of waste. The Parliamentary Office has tried to consider the entire "system" for managing these wastes, in order to identify the weak spots as well as the positive aspects.
In its study the Office had first to try to separate the subjective reactions and those of the media from the objective risks or hazards. The latter, although tiny from the health standpoint, are in fact exacerbated by the large number of people and organisations involved: large hospitals, small clinics, the liberal professions, the development of care in the community, and so on, all of which complicates the solutions to be applied. It seemed to the Parliamentary Office that "health awareness" still had some progress to make and that in this connection the public hospital should become a model or centre of excellence for public health. The Parliamentary Office nevertheless stressed the fact that all must be involved, including the local authorities; this will have repercussions on the way in which the policies governing medical wastes are funded.

20. The ecological impact of the Rhine-Rhone link.
Mr Raymond Forni, M.P. and Mr Pierre Vallon, senator (1993).
The two rapporteurs of the Office - one a deputy, the other a senator - were invited to investigate the ecological impact of the Rhine-Rhone link, and have found themselves involved in an emotional and fascinating debate on the very future of this project.
Their concern was therefore to reintroduce transparency and objectivity, by focusing on the real problems and pointing out the paradoxes in this matter.
Their conclusions stemmed from a two-fold analysis:
For a project such as this which, although ambitious, was disputed, poorly run and poorly presented, it is important to find a way out of the current impasse and to move on.
It is essential to adopt a completely different approach so as to take into account the changes that have taken place over the last fifteen years in terms of ecology, to note some aspects of the experience with the Rhine-Main-Danube canal, more closely to control the consequences of the works proposed, to draw benefit from an overall approach to transport systems, to make better use of ministerial authority and to enable a democratic discussion as well as an independent view of the ecological consequences of the work carried out.

19. High definition digital television.
Messrs Raymond Forni and Michel Pelchat, M.Ps (1992).
The report by Messrs Forni and Pelchat seeks to determine the extent to which the probable deployment in the United States of fully digital high definition television systems represents a threat to Europe’s strategy and choices in this field.
The conclusions reached by Messrs Forni and Pelchat are based upon one certainty and one observation:
- The certainty is that the future looks fully digital, but the question is when this will come about.
- The observation is that MAC D2, in spite of its undoubted qualities and its being ready to use, is failing to impose itself as quickly as it should if it is to be viable as a transitional standard.
Notwithstanding this however, not all the problems have been resolved. There are in particular:
- technological problems such as the development of flat screens, and the optimisation - for terrestrial broadcasting - of the compromise between picture quality, coverage and channel width;
- commercial factors, resulting in particular from the cost of components.
In any event, the NTSC (Never Twice Same Colour) system will be around in the United States until at least 2008.
Against this background, the MAC D2 system still holds a trump card in its ease of encryption and in particular the fact that it is at present the only available means of broadcasting to the 16:9 format.
Of course European broadcasters and producers cannot be forced to use this standard and format. At the very most they can be encouraged to do so.
Therefore the problem today is that of financing the necessary incentive measures. The issue is an important one and concerns:
- securing some return from the substantial investment already made;
- the situation of our electronics industry;
- applying the European Directive of May 1992;
- finally, the future of the European "Eurocrypt" open encryption standard faced with the proprietary systems "Syster" (Canal+) and Videocrypt (Bsky B).

18. Problems raised by household wastes.
Mr Michel Pelchat, M.P. (1993).
The problem of household waste is becoming increasingly serious: rising living standards not only substantially increase its volume but also bring about a growing diversification in its make-up, with a big increase in plastics and toxic materials. This question is especially difficult since the traditional methods of disposal - dumps and incinerators - are no longer able to cope.
Recycling and re-use are not highly reliable means of disposal since the quantities involved are out of all proportion with the disposal potential of these two approaches; however they must nevertheless be encouraged, if only for civic reasons.
However the most effective solution, apart from seeking to reduce the amount of wastes at source, is probably incineration, naturally on condition that it involves energy recovery and that its technical conditions are such that the discharges are not an additional cause of pollution to the air (by smoke) or the ground (by metals).
Finally, European harmonisation of the different methods of treating domestic waste appears absolutely indispensable, if the policies of each country are not to become competitive and hence ineffective.

17. Problems arising from the development of mining activities in Antarctica.
Mr Jean-Yves Le Déaut, M.P. (1992).
During the far-reaching discussions about whether to ratify the Wellington Convention, a whole series of alarmist news bulletins was circulated about the future of the Antarctic continent. The aim of the Office’s study was therefore to elucidate the possible hazards that the expansion of human activities could cause to the polar regions, with the support of the best French experts in these problems.
The report concluded that there was no reason to give way to total pessimism and that in the short and medium term there was no serious threat to the Antarctic environment, but also concluded that it was essential to go farther than the Wellington Convention and definitively ban exploitation of that continent’s mineral resources.
The new protocol signed on 4 October 1991 in Madrid makes provision, as proposed by the Office, for all activities other than scientific research to be forbidden for 50 years throughout the Antarctic continent.

16. Monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. (Study III) (1992).
In this field the Office has a very specific role: it conducts an independent outside examination of the way in which the safety and security of nuclear installations are monitored, while in no way seeking to take the place of the operators or of the authorities responsible for drawing up and implementing the safety rules. In this way it exercises one of parliament’s essential functions - democratic oversight – in a better way than any "committee of wise men" or "high authority".
By organising round table discussions and public hearings open to the press, such as that held on 19 May 1992 on the possible restart of Superphénix, it provides the public with all available information and thus contributes to its own objective of transparency, which is also a factor in safety.
The recommendations made by the Office cover the organisation of the government departments responsible for monitoring, the actions the operators might take, and the improvement of public participation. Some of these have already been translated into fact, for example the raising of the safety authority to the rank of a Directorate. A draft parliamentary Bill has been prepared with a view to setting up local information and surveillance committees around civilian nuclear sites.

15. Biodiversity and the preservation of the genetic heritage.
Mr Daniel Chevallier, M.P. (1992).
A start has already been made on executing two of the recommendations set out in this report: the creation of a "public interest grouping" on the subject of genetic resources, and consideration of the establishment of a protected natural reserve in the département of Guyana.
This report also represented the contribution of the Office to France’s preparation of the Rio de Janeiro Conference on the Environment, Mr Daniel Chevallier having been appointed a member of the French delegation.

14. Management of very low activity radioactive wastes.
Mr Jean-Yves Le Déaut, M.P. (1992).
The French regulations on very low activity radioactive wastes are unclear, imprecise and occasionally even incoherent: they have been the cause of many dumping "affairs" which have been regarded, rightly or wrongly, as dangerous by the public involved.
The recommendations in the Office’s report cover recasting and clarifying the legislation, as well as refurbishing old storage sites, improving public information, controlling the radioactive sources used in industry and medicine, and studying the effects of low doses on human health.
On 7 May 1992, in response to the conclusions reached by the Office, the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Industry introduced an initial review of actions already taken with a view to modernising the management of low activity radioactive wastes.

13. The life sciences and human rights: radical and uncontrolled change, or legislation French style.
Mr Franck Sérusclat, senator (1992).
Senator Franck Sérusclat is a parliamentarian closely involved with one of the subjects causing most concern to French society: bioethics. In a voluminous report (two volumes with over a thousand pages) he provides parliamentarians with the results of all the discussions noted during 350 hours of interviews in 1991, in eight countries, and the documents he has collected on medically-assisted human reproduction, genetics and prenatal diagnostics, the status of the human body and end-of-life considerations.
This report was used to prepare the parliamentary debate on bioethics and remains a reference document in many conferences and meetings organised on this topic.

12. Orientation of French and European space policy.
Mr Paul Loridant, senator (1991).
The report by the Office on "Orientation of French and European space policy" was published the day after the meeting of the European Space Ministers held in Munich in November 1991 (Mr Loridant had been invited to attend this meeting as an observer). This study had a particularly wide field of investigation and required the co-operation of nine principal experts. In total, more than a hundred people were consulted. The Office concluded that Europe already has the potential that would enable it to become a fully active space power, but that understandable hesitations could result in cancellations or compromises. In any event, it appears that more effective mobilisation of its resources with a view to more clearly defined and better-justified objectives, is indispensable. Manned space flights must in no circumstances be funded to the detriment of other space priorities, amongst which earth observation should take a leading place.
It would not be appropriate for the public authorities to stand aside from the preparation of future generations of telecommunications satellites by entrusting responsibility for these to private industry alone.
This report, which also dealt with military aspects of space, was the Office’s first incursion into the field of technological choices related to defence matters.

11. Monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. (Study II) (1991).
In this field the Office has a very specific role: it conducts an independent outside examination of the way in which the safety and security of nuclear installations are monitored, while in no way seeking to take the place of the operators or of the authorities responsible for drawing up and implementing the safety rules. In this way it exercises one of parliament’s essential functions - democratic oversight – in a better way than any "committee of wise men" or "high authority".
By organising round table discussions and public hearings open to the press, such as that held on 19 May 1992 on the possible restart of Superphénix, it provides the public with all available information and thus contributes to its own objective of transparency, which is also a factor in safety.
The recommendations made by the Office cover the organisation of the government departments responsible for monitoring, the actions the operators might take, and the improvement of public participation. Some of these have already been translated into fact, for example the raising of the safety authority to the rank of a Directorate. A draft parliamentary Bill has been prepared with a view to setting up local information and surveillance committees around civilian nuclear sites.

10. Preserving water quality: drinking water distribution and sewage treatment.
Mr Jean Faure, senator and Mr Richard Pouille, senator (1991).
The worsening quality of our water resources, which is linked partly to inadequate sewage treatment, was also a subject worked upon by the Office which devoted a report to these problems.
The work by its rapporteurs found a fruitful continuation with the debate on the draft Bill on the distribution, policing and protection of water that received widespread support during discussion.
Law no. 92-3 of 3 January 1992 is fully encompassed by the "environment" element of the Office’s work and should contribute to improving water quality in France. After one year, the Minister for the Environment also provided the Office with a review of the subject, in accordance with article 48 of law no. 92-3.

9. Problems arising from the treatment of industrial wastes as part of a threefold approach covering domestic, industrial and hospital wastes.
Mr Michel Destot, M.P. (1991).
In this study, the Office sought to determine the underlying reasons for the complete stagnation of French policy on wastes. In its considerations, the Office gave pride of place to determining how waste policy could recover its credibility in the eyes of the public.
The response to the wide circulation of the report’s conclusions resulted in the Office being a preferred point of contact in many events devoted to the problem of industrial wastes. Adoption of the law on waste disposal of 13 July 1992 was a direct result of some of the Office’s conclusions. Also, the fundamental work carried out in the Office enlivened a number of aspects of the parliamentary debate.

8. Monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Mr Claude Birraux, M.P. and Mr Franck Sérusclat, senator (Study I) (1990).
In this field the Office has a very specific role: it conducts an independent outside examination of the way in which the safety and security of nuclear installations are monitored, while in no way seeking to take the place of the operators or of the authorities responsible for drawing up and implementing the safety rules. In this way it exercises one of parliament’s essential functions - democratic oversight – in a better way than any "committee of wise men" or "high authority".
By organising round table discussions and public hearings open to the press, such as that held on 19 May 1992 on the possible restart of Superphénix, it provides the public with all available information and thus contributes to its own objective of transparency, which is also a factor in safety.
The recommendations made by the Office cover the organisation of the government departments responsible for monitoring, the actions the operators might take, and the improvement of public participation. Some of these have already been translated into fact, for example the raising of the safety authority to the rank of a Directorate. A draft parliamentary Bill has been prepared with a view to setting up local information and surveillance committees around civilian nuclear sites.

7. Management of high activity nuclear wastes.
Mr Christian Bataille, M.P. (1990).
This study was entrusted to the Office by the Bureau of the National Assembly and Senate, meeting a wish expressed by the Prime Minister when he announced the suspension of research into the underground storage of high activity radioactive wastes. After seven months of enquiry and many meetings with all concerned, the rapporteur presented precise proposals that were practically all embodied in law No. 91-1381 of 30 December 1991 relative to research into radioactive waste management. A mediator was in fact appointed to follow up and apply this law; the government appointed Mr Bataille for this task, and he was confirmed in the post by the new government in 1993.
By enabling the public involved to express itself with great freedom, the Office’s study contributed to diffusing the arguments that were becoming bitter.
The office also put forward solutions that should enable research on high activity radioactive waste management to be resumed in a tranquil spirit and with the support of all parties involved.

6. Application of biotechnologies to agriculture and the agro-food industry.
Mr Daniel Chevallier, M.P. (1990).
One of the recommendations of this report has had concrete results. Mr Daniel Chevallier had recommended that the embodiment into French law of two European directives concerning the controlled use and deliberate dissemination of genetically modified organisms should be the subject of legislation, allowing parliament the opportunity to intervene in this sensitive area. The government accepted this request and Mr Daniel Chevallier was the rapporteur for this legislation on behalf of the production and trade committee.
This report has had other sequels: first, the Office jointly organised an information day on biotechnologies, using this report as a basis, together with the Agriculture Committee of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly. Secondly, the Office was invited by the Bureau of the National Assembly to conduct a study on biodiversity and the conservation of the genetic heritage, a topic that had been the subject of a chapter of the "biotechnologies" report.

5. The effects of chlorofluorocarbons on the environment and ways in which their emission can be eliminated or limited.
Mr Robert Galley, M.P. and Mr Louis Perrein, senator (1990).
The report on the "Effects of chlorofluorocarbons on the environment and ways of limiting or eliminating their emissions" was prepared at the time by an opposition deputy, Mr Robert Galley, and a government senator, Mr. Louis Perrein.
Presented on the eve of the London Conference on the revision of the Montreal Protocol on preserving the ozone layer, this is the first report by the Office to have been fully translated into English. During its preparation, the two rapporteurs met all of the world’s leading specialists on the subject, without exception, and were able to participate in the inter-parliamentary conference on the environment organised in Washington by the American senator Albert Gore in the spring of 1990.
The conclusions reached by the Office can be summarised under three headings:
1. The scientific evidence calls for tougher action;
2. It is possible to do without CFCs;
3. It is indispensable for developing countries to join in the efforts to restrict and eliminate emissions of halogen compounds.
In the conclusion of the report, the Office sets out a list of recommendations that the Minister for Research has adopted and has undertaken to implement.

4. Developments in the semiconductor industry.
Mr Louis Mexandeau, M.P. (1989).
Semiconductors are a major economic and strategic factor and all industries now depend on this technology.
The study by the Office attempted to answer the basic questions on the expected technical developments, the distribution of skills around the world, and the policies foreseeable for France and the Community.
Considerable space was devoted to the European JESSI programme and to Europe’s chances in view of Japanese supremacy.
Developments - both technical and economic - in this sector have been so rapid that the Office has been asked to prepare an update of this report.

3. High definition television.
Mr Raymond Forni, M.P. and Mr Michel Pelchat, M.P. (1989).
In an initial report issued in July 1989, the Office had called upon Europe to intensify its actions to counter the Japanese offensive in the field of high definition television (HDTV), in view of the importance of the economic and cultural issues at stake. The rapporteurs, while defending the European MAC broadcasting standards, had already asked pertinent questions about the advent of HDTV systems using digital transmission which appeared to be inevitable, although the schedule appeared extremely uncertain.

2. Consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the organisation of safety and security at nuclear installations.
Mr Jean-Marie Rausch, senator and Mr Richard Pouille, senator (1987) (replacing Mr Jacques Valade, senator, appointed a minister on 20 January 1987).
Four months after the Chernobyl disaster, a delegation from the Office, the first foreign delegation allowed to visit the station, met those in charge of nuclear management in the USSR and Ukraine.
Although at the time technical information was still very scarce, the parliamentarians from the Office sought to elucidate - sometimes in different ways - the circumstances and consequences of this disaster.
They also set out the lessons that could be learned for France, concerning not only the lack of information during an emergency but also the organisation for monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations.
Through this report, the parliament demonstrated its interest in a technology which, while having undoubted advantages, does need to be carefully monitored and controlled by the public authorities.

1. Long-range forms of air pollution and acid rain.
M. Georges LE BAILL, M.P. (1985).
This first report by the Office covered the transport of pollutants in the atmosphere and their consequences for the environment.
On the particular problem of damage to certain forests that was quickly attributed entirely to acid rain, the rapporteur pointed out that this phenomenon suffered from a number of scientific uncertainties and could well have other explanations.
He concluded that research in this field should be pursued but that energetic measures should be taken, without awaiting the research results, to reduce pollutant emissions as quickly as possible.
Scientific results published in a number of countries have since confirmed that the cautious attitude of the rapporteur was completely justified, and that acid rain had often served as a pretext to impose measures that were primarily economic in nature.

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