Macron president confirms that the future of France will be nuclear

Macron president confirms that the future of France will be nuclear

A few hours after the polls closed for the second round of the French presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron won over challenger Marine Le Pen by measure, consolidating his role at the helm of the country for a second term until 2027. In an electoral campaign heavily conditioned by the Ukrainian conflict, the debate saw the current president accuse Le Pen of depending on "Russian power" and President Vladimir Putin ", spreading a dangerous skepticism towards European institutions. The French electoral campaign, however, also meant, in this scenario of energy crisis, a moment of fundamental importance for the fate of the most important civil nuclear power in Europe.

War in Ukraine Stops Future Nuclear Reactors Next Generation Nuclear Power Plants Might Be Safer and More Efficient, But They Are Powered by a Type of Uranium Produced Almost Exclusively in Russia Nuclear in France: History and Identity From the discovery of radioactivity by Antoine Henri Becquerel and Pierre and Marie Curie at the beginning of the 19th century to today, where nuclear fission constitutes the main backbone of the French energy system, nuclear fission is inextricably linked to the identity of the State and culture transalpine. From the turbulent 1970s onwards, Paris's desire to free itself as much as possible from external energy supplies has grown stronger, linking scientific ambitions and economic stability to a vision of national power. Today, atomic energy supplies about 50% of the final energy consumed and 70% of the electricity to the country.

Total energy supply in France, by source (1990-2020)

IEA Electricity generation in France, by source (1990-2020)

IEA In a very heterogeneous framework of political offer and which has seen the parties of the traditional republican stream fall in consensus, becoming almost residual in the current political context, the energy question has steadily maintained its centrality in the debate. Given the widespread difficulties across Europe for an increasingly exorbitant balance of energy payments, which contributes significantly to record inflation in the continent, energy has become one of the main themes of the 2022 presidential challenge.

In early April, a sudden downward turn in temperatures sent electricity consumption skyrocketing, forcing French grid operator Rte to issue an orange alert to reduce energy demand as much as possible. France was thus forced to import up to 11GW, reversing its role as an electricity exporter to neighboring European countries. Obviously, this electricity has been paid for at a very high price, resulting in the highest prices in 13 years. The cost of electricity generation has risen to such an extent that the French companies themselves have been paid to reduce consumption during peak hours.

Gas and nuclear have entered the list of sustainable investments for the European Commission The tool serves to clarify what can be financed with green funds. The front of the no is widening: together with the environmentalists also a part of the business world A ceiling on the price of energy The Elysée, urged by the upcoming elections and even before the Ukrainian conflict, moved quickly and managed to impose a ceiling on the price of electricity and gas, leveraging the strong electricity generation due to nuclear power. Although the government has also allocated around 25 billion euros for the most difficult sections of the population, inflation reached an all-time high in March, increasing more than expected and becoming yet another topic of electoral contention. To pay the costs, evidently, was the state company Edf which deals with the management of the enormous French nuclear fleet. The same, already financially weakened by years of rising costs and unrealized projects, could end up completely nationalized by the voice of President Macron himself.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that about half of the reactors are out of order French. Many are now subject to scheduled maintenance while others have suffered sudden stops for safety reasons. In recent months, the nuclear energy produced by France has been at a minimum for 30 years and in the near future, the deficit is destined to remain. This is because Edf has predicted that the extraordinary maintenance will continue at least until 2023, and because on 14 April the French company announced possible corrosion in 4 other reactors. If these too were to be stopped, France would lose an additional 4.8 GW and structurally become an electricity importer for at least the entire summer of 2022. Electricity futures prices are obviously already skyrocketing. Finally, the only project under construction of a reactor, the 3 Epr of Flamanville, has suffered a new delay (from the end of 2022 to mid-2023) and yet another increase in costs, more than quadrupled since the presentation, which took place now 20 years. ago.

Inflation has reached a new record in France

BloombergThe French nuclear park: reactors currently in operation and those deactivated.

S&P Global Platts The electoral campaign : the energy and nuclear issue The fate of the fleet of 56 operational reactors in the country is therefore of utmost importance, not only for France, but for the definition of the European energy identity at a key moment in its evolution, grappling with the grandiose goals of the Fit-for-55 plan and the difficulties of moving forward due to the breakdown of international value chains. The long French electoral campaign, crossed by the effects of the stormy Ukrainian conflict and an initially very mild commitment by President Macron, saw the theme of the nuclear industry and its future to hold the ground, becoming an essential object of the political narrative among the various candidates .

In the program of Anne Hidalgo, the candidate of the Socialist Party, the goal for 2050 has remained that of 100% energy from renewable sources and the renovation of 24 million homes to reduce the quantity of emissions. In the plans of the socialists, confined to a measly 2% in the first round and further down compared to the already disastrous 2017 elections, the entire French nuclear fleet should have, in any case, continued to constitute the country's energy security within the current framework of great difficulty.

What is this story of fourth generation nuclear power? It is increasingly talked about in reference to future investments in atomic energy, even after the inclusion of nuclear energy among sustainable investments according to the European Commission, but there are many elements to be clarified Also for Valerié Précresse's Gaullists, the nuclear issue was at the center of the "Gaullist recovery plan" in terms of energy, the key words of which were carbon neutrality by 2050, the continuous generation of electricity and the protection of citizens' purchasing power. To this end, the primary objective of the Republican Front is to postpone the planned closure of 12 reactors by 2035, the construction of a further six new generation EPR reactors and the abolition of 50% of the limit on the production of electricity from nuclear sources (by 2035). However, the party has not even broken through the minimum threshold of 5%.

This throws further discouragement on those who identify with the two traditional subjects of French politics. Despite the 28% obtained by Macron, in the first round more than half of the votes went to parties with a strong political connotation outside the traditional republican framework. To cause a stir, but with limited electoral results, the far-right candidate Éric Zemmour presented one of the most ambitious energy programs, especially in the nuclear field. The basis is the extension to over 60 years of the existing plant fleet, the postponement of the reduction of the 50% electricity generation threshold from nuclear power to after 2035 and the stop to the scheduled shutdown of 12 reactors in 2030. Not only; in Zemmour's plans, France should have built 14 new Epr2-type reactors by 2050, invest in fourth generation reactor research and fusion (Astrid program and Iter international project) and the development of small modular reactors, putting pressure on institutions community to impose nuclear power as the main tool in the fight against climate change.

For the candidate of La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who finished third in the first round to closely pursue Marine Le Pen, the ecological crisis- climate was the focus of the program. The leftist candidate has in fact looked at nuclear power as an energy source of forced and obligatory passage for the French transition to 100% renewable by 2050. In this scenario, where energy is seen as a common good and the democratic debate must be guaranteed on energy choices, nuclear is profiled as unreliable (accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima) and the cause of immense environmental destruction resulting from uranium mining.

Together, Mélenchon and Zemmour have achieved almost a third of the consensus of the French. The sign that extreme energy and climate strategies can convince an important electorate, also in support of equally relevant and counter-current economic and political recipes and their weight will also weigh on the legislative elections next June.

How much we depend on gas and oil from Russia? The European Union has updated data on its energy dependence: 41.1% of natural gas and 36.5% of oil are of Russian origin Macron vs Le Pen: the Renaissance of French nuclear power On Sunday 24 April, French voters have therefore chosen the pro-European and liberal platform of Macron over the nationalist and eurosceptic one of Le Pen. Polls have predicted an acceleration of the incumbent president. Yet, unlike 2017, the race appeared decidedly more open and for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, a far-right candidate sought to sit at the Elysée until the last minute, marking a turning point in history French.

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