Electricity

France boosts its nuclear energy plan with eight more large reactors

France boosts nuclear energy plan eight more large reactors

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Published

January 10, 2024

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Published:

January 10, 2024

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The French government is preparing a bill intended to facilitate the replacement of its aging nuclear power plants with new ones of as much as 23 GW in total by 2050 or an equivalent of 14 reactors, compared to six units in the current plans.

Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher said France needs more nuclear energy to cut fossil fuel use to 40% by 2035, from 60%. The government is working on an energy law that would enable the addition of eight more reactors than in the official strategy.

The bill is set to be passed to Parliament next month after a cabinet vote. Critics said the government failed to incorporate the obligatory 44% share of renewables in gross final energy consumption in 2030, in line with the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive. In addition, it even dropped the domestic targets for electricity from renewable sources and energy efficiency.

Total capacity planned to remain little changed by mid-century

The idea is to maintain nuclear power capacity at 63 GW by 2050 by replacing the old facilities. The current objective is to build six European pressurized reactors (EPRs) of an overall 10 GW. The technology is new, with only a few units online so far.

The addition of 13 GW into the 2050 plan was long discussed and it would be formalized with the draft law

The new proposal adds an equivalent of eight large reactors or up to 13 GW, but the fleet is envisaged to include different kinds, like small modular reactors or SMRs. The option has been publicly discussed for a while and now it would be formalized.

Pannier-Runacher suggested that a further expansion of the plan is even possible but also affirmed support for the efforts to speed up the development of renewables.

EDF set to keep its role as Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant operator

State-owned EDF, which recently raised EUR 1 billion from Europe’s first green bonds for nuclear energy, is seen keeping its flagship role with the initiative. France is also preparing dozens of billions of euros in state aid.

A year ago the government vowed to extend the existing plants’ operating life by as long as possible. In the meantime, France, the frontrunner in the EU in the push for a nuclear energy renaissance of a sort, established an alliance of European countries that endorsed it.

The creation of an EU industrial alliance for SMRs is in the works, too.

Two dozen countries and more than 120 companies pledged last month at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 to contribute to the goal of tripling the world’s nuclear energy capacity by 2050.

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