Hollande gives Fessenheim closure target and rejects shale gas

French president Francois Hollande has vowed to close the country oldest nuclear plant Fessenheim by 2016 and has also pledged to reject the development of shale gas.

In a wide-ranging speech on the environment, Hollande said Fessenheim would be closed by 2016.

The move was wide expected – Hollande made a pre-election pledge to shut the plant by the end of his presidential mandate in 2017 and has been vocal in his desire to wean France off its nuclear dependency – 75 per cent of all electricity comes from nuclear plants. Hollande wants to cut this to 50 per cent.

However this stance has put him on a collision course with French unions, which claim that shutting plants will create massive job losses.

Bernard Thibault, head of French energy group EDF's main workers' union  the CGT, said the decision to close Fessenehim by 2016 had been “rushed”.

There were reports in a French newspaper over the weekend that EDF had made a €2bn compensation request from the government in respect of the Fessenheim closure, but the French energy company today denied the claim.

Hollande also said that he had already vetoed several applications from companies to begin drilling for shale gas – or ‘fracking’ – in France. He said he was opposed to the process on health and environmental grounds, a stand that follows that of his predecessor Nicholas Sarkozy.

Fracking is banned in some other European countries, including Germany, yet others such as Poland – which has the largest European reserves of shale gas – remain strong advocates.

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