French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants. In a televised address on Tuesday evening, Macron justified this by, among other things, the fight against climate change and concerns about a reliable energy supply. However, at the same time, the development of renewable energies should also continue. France is a long-time nuclear power user and wants to stick with it.
56 reactors are currently operating there. “In order to guarantee France’s energy independence, secure our country’s electricity supply and achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, we will resume building nuclear reactors in our country for the first time in decades,” Macron said in the televised address. A few weeks ago, he announced his intention to build smaller reactors by 2030, which would also make it easier to deal with nuclear waste.
Controversial reactor construction
Unlike Austria, France continued to rely on nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. The country’s oldest nuclear power plant in Fessenheim, Alsace, was shut down last year, and more reactor units are scheduled to be removed from the grid by 2035. However, France is currently the second largest producer of nuclear energy in the world after the United States. According to a study by the grid operator RTE, running CO2-neutral electricity without new nuclear power plants will only be possible with massive efforts by 2050.
Exorbitant costs and technical problems have recently hampered the expansion of nuclear power by the state energy company EDF. An operating license was recently issued for a controversial nuclear reactor in Flamanville on the English Channel, the construction of which began in 2007. The commissioning was last postponed to the end of 2022 – also due to the discovery of leaky welds in the steel structure. Instead of the originally estimated amount of 3.3 billion euros, the costs may now be more than twelve billion euros.
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