French President Emmanuel Macron declared a “renaissance” for the French nuclear industry with an extensive programme to construct as many as 14 new reactors, claiming that it would aid end the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and make France carbon-free neutral by 2050.
The centrist French president, who was awaited to inform about his re-election campaign this month, is aware of debating about energy on this spring’s presidential vote as costs to consumers rise. Environmental problems are also a growing concern among French voters.
Presidential candidates have supported more nuclear power plants saying France should have “sovereignty” over its electricity. In contrast, detractors on the left have warned of the cost and complexity of building new reactors.
Macron said French nuclear regulators were “unequalled” in their rigour and professionalism. The decision to structure the new nuclear power plants model was a “choice of progress, a choice of confidence in science and technology”.
He also announced a major acceleration in solar and offshore wind power development. He said France had no choice but to rely on renewables and nuclear and that the country would also have to consume significantly less energy in the next decades.
He said he would seek to extend the lives of all existing French nuclear plants where it was safe to do so.
Macron announced the construction of at least six new reactors by EDF by 2050, with an option for another eight.
His recent focus on nuclear power marks a policy shift from the start of his presidency when he had promised to reduce its share in France’s energy mix.
The French government lobbied hard and successfully to get the European Commission to label nuclear power “green” this month in a landmark review. It can attract funding as a climate-friendly power source.