In a significant change to national policy, France is to begin building new nuclear reactors ‘to guarantee energy independence,’ and meet its climate change goals, president Macron announced on 9 November in a televised address to the nation.
"We will, for the first time in decades, re-launch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country and continue to develop renewable energies," he said, although he did not disclose any details on the numbers or locations of the reactors.
France currently has 56 operable nuclear reactors and one European pressurised reactor (EPR) under construction at the Flamanville power plant. That project, launched in 2007, is delayed, but likely to be ready by 2023. An official decision on the construction of further EPR reactors in the country is due shortly.
In October, president Macron announced investments of 8 billion euros (US$9.27 billion) in the nuclear energy sector, with plans for the construction of small-scale reactors having better waste management.
In his address Mr Macron said that French citizens are living with the consequences of the current situation every day by paying more [for] petrol, as well as facing increasing gas and electricity prices. "What we are experiencing in recent weeks requires urgent responses. This is also why the government has
fixed gas prices." To keep energy costs at a ‘reasonable’ level and reduce dependence on imports, France must continue to save energy and invest in domestic carbon-free energy production, he said. "This is why, to guarantee France's energy independence, to guarantee our country's electricity supply and achieve our objectives, in particular carbon neutrality in 2050, we are going, for the first time in decades, to relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country and continue to develop renewable energies.”
Currently, nuclear accounts for almost 75% of France's power production. But former president Francois Hollande had said he aimed to limit its share of the national electricity generation mix to 50% by 2025, and to close Fessenheim – the country's oldest nuclear power plant – by the end of his five-year term, in May 2017. In June 2014, his government announced nuclear capacity would be capped at the then current level of 63.2 GWe. The French Energy Transition for Green Growth Law, adopted in August 2015, did not call for the shutdown of any operating power reactors, but it meant EDF would have to close older reactors in order to bring new ones online. However, under a draft energy and climate bill presented in May 2019, France will now delay its planned reduction in the share of nuclear power in its electricity mix to 50% from the current 2025 target to a new target of 2035.