Is France moving away from pledge to reduce nuclear capacity?

François Hollande. Photo credit: Jean-Marc Ayrault (cc)

When Francois Hollande was elected President of France in 2012, he pledged that he would reduce the nuclear energy contribution to the country's electricity mix from 75% to 50% by 2025.

But this pledge might no longer be a reality.

Energy Minister, Ms Segolene Royal, said last month that it was no longer a high priority to do so. She said that she was not in favour of quitting nuclear power and added that France needs to continue investing in it, particularly in fourth-generation reactors which will consume less nuclear fuel and recycle nuclear waste.

Last year, the lower house of the French parliament voted on a bill that would cap nuclear production at current levels.

But earlier this month the senate, in which the conservative opposition has a majority and which has the power to amend but not block laws, scrapped the cap and removed any reference to 2025.

Royal refused to confirm whether the government would stick with the 2025 deadline, one of President Francois Hollande's key election promises, and enter the new amendments to the text.

All eyes are on France as it prepares to host the crucial COP 21 summit at the end of this year, a summit which many believe to be the last chance to salvage a global deal on combating climate change.

Due to the large share of nuclear energy in France’s electricity mix, its CO2 emissions are among the lowest in Europe.

But France is also standing by its goals on renewable energy generation, which by 2030 should account for 40% of its energy mix. Ms Royal says it’s more important to focus on reaching this goal than to reduce nuclear capacity.

It is possible that France could expect higher electricity demand in 2030 than today. As a part of its green initiative, and as an attempt to combat the big problem of air pollution, France plans a lucrative electric car scheme. Such a scheme, if successful, could dramatically increase electricity usage.

Therefore it does not looks as if France is gearing up to quit nuclear, something Royal herself has been quite clear about.

France is also a key player in nuclear research into a new generation of sodium-cooled nuclear reactors.

These latest announcements put France on an entirely different nuclear path from neighbouring Germany, which wants to free its entire energy sector from nuclear by 2022.


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Anders Lorenzen
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This article was originally published in A greener life, a greener world by Anders Lorenzen.

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