31 Aug (NucNet): A “secret” report commissioned last spring by France’s government proposed building five new nuclear reactors, Les Echos reported on 30 August 2018, two days after anti-nuclear environment minister Nicolas Hulot resigned and said that progress on a shift to renewable energy was too slow.
The report, prepared for Mr Hulot and finance minister Bruno Le Maire, examines how to maintain the industrial capacity of a French nuclear sector that slowed reactor construction in the 1990s, Les Echos said. Among its proposals is the building of five new EPR reactors starting in 2025.
“Government policy isn’t decided by a report,” Mr Le Maire told Radio Classique when questioned about the Les Echos report. Nuclear power is an asset for France, he added, mentioning its low greenhouse emissions and costs he described as “competitive”.
Mr Hulot resigned on Tuesday saying that remaining in the government would have “created the illusion” that president Emanuel Macron’s environment policy was satisfactory.
Les Echos said the report was drawn up by a nuclear industry veteran and a former defence official, and was submitted for classification as secret.
“In France, we do a lot more [on climate change] than in other countries, but we do not do enough,” Mr Hulot said while announcing his resignation. He added: “I don’t want to lie anymore. I don’t want to give illusions that my presence in the government means we’re on top of these issues.”
He said: “I don’t understand how, after the Paris conference and a dire diagnostic that clearly worsens with each passing day, this subject can be relegated to the lowest priorities,” Mr Hulot said.
France derives about 75% – the highest percentage in the world – of its electricity from nuclear energy, with 58 commercial reactors operated by state-controlled EDF.
In 2015, the government of former president François Hollande established an energy transition law which set a target of reducing the nuclear share to 50% by 2025.
Mr Hulot said in November 2017 this would not be realistic and suggested the deadline to be pushed back to 2035.