France wants to invest in new nuclear power plants

France wants to invest in new nuclear power plants

President Macron's plan bets on small reactors to respond to the energy crisis, as Europe launches a new aid plan for the sector

(Photo: Pixabay) French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the construction of new small-scale nuclear power plants by 2030. In the € 30 billion French economic recovery plan for industry and ecology, presented on Tuesday 12 October, one billion is earmarked for these new facilities for the production of electricity.

Other resources will then be allocated to the transport, industry, agriculture and health sectors. This, while the International Energy Agency has stressed that the ecological commitments made by the governments of the world are insufficient to achieve the objectives of containing the global temperature increase of the Paris agreements and that a further collective effort is needed.

# France2030, objectif 1.

Réinventer le nucléaire.

- Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 12, 2021

The French way to nuclear power

The plan by Emmanuel Macron is called France 2030 and the ambitious goal is to recover the ground lost by the country compared to other world powers through a large and rapid process of general modernization. Thirty billion euros which between now and 2030 will be invested in various sectors, eight of which only in energy, "to increase the French economy's ability to grow through innovation", according to the vision of the transalpine president.

In particular, the resources will be allocated to the decarbonisation of the most polluting industries such as steel, the production of two million electric and hybrid vehicles, the construction of low-carbon air transport, digitalisation and robotization of agriculture to reduce waste and pollution, to health innovation.

Macron stressed that France must become the European leader in green hydrogen through its energy efforts and in this sense an important chapter of the plan is also dedicated to nuclear power. France has a very long history in this sense, with the conversion to the atom now occurring in the distant 1960s. In recent years, many plants have been stopped due to breakdowns or maintenance work, while the approval of power plants built in the last century is approaching its deadline. In short, for France it was time to decide whether to continue on this path or to put nuclear power in the drawer, in a context where the 58 active nuclear reactors produce 70% of the country's electricity. And Macron, after having shown a certain skepticism about nuclear power in recent years also due to public fears after the Japanese Fukushima accident, moved all in on the sector.

One billion euros will be invested over the course of this decade in the construction of six new small nuclear power plants, those under 300 megawatts of power. A small change of philosophy, with which we seem to want to take a step beyond the typically French large isolated plants to equip the territory in a more widespread way with less powerful and easier to build structures. This new fascination for nuclear power in France is not accidental: in the context of the current energy crisis, the objective of not depending on the surge in fossil fuel prices is becoming stringent and this has also become an election campaign theme in view of the vote. of 2022, with the population putting the increases in their bills in the face of environmental issues.

There are several "buts" linked to the new Macronian way to nuclear power, immediately raised by environmental movements. Recent French history, in fact, is teeming with accidents and scandals related to its reactors. Work has been done on the mega plant in Flamanville for years, but with delays and breakdowns its completion never takes place and the cost has quadrupled compared to initial estimates. In addition, there is the issue of waste, on which several inquiries have been opened in the past, so much so that Macron himself has promised innovations from this point of view as well.

The appeal of the International Energy Agency

As France announces its plan for modernization and ecological transition, the International Energy Agency (Iea) has raised the voice against the commitments on the environmental issue of the states of the world, defined as insufficient.

The problem is not that governments are not taking measures, but that they are doing it too little. The announced plans will make it impossible to achieve zero emissions by 2050 and the reduction will only be 40%. According to the agency, with the current measures there will be an increase in the global average temperature of 2.6 degrees by 2100 and less than a fifth of the reduction in emissions that must be achieved by 2030 will be filled. In particular, the energy crisis in current and the new focus of states on fossil fuels, such as China which has ordered an increase in coal production in recent days, are likely to take further steps backwards.

The IEA then asked governments and institutions to focus more decisively on clean energy, to focus on energy efficiency, to cut emissions from fossil sources and to invest in innovation, through four trillion billions dollars of additional resources. The European Commission seems to have immediately given an answer in this sense, with a series of emergency measures that will serve to cope with the current price spikes but which will also accelerate the transition to clean energy, to avoid other shocks in the future. Among these, an enhancement of investments in renewable energy, the facilitation of access to agreements for the purchase and sale of electricity from these sources and an improvement in energy storage capacity, including through hydrogen batteries.

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