French government may row back on nuclear plant decision

The French energy minister appears to have left the door open for retaining the services of the country’s oldest nuclear power plant.

Segolene Royal told France Inter Radio that she would consider it, despite the Fessenheim facility’s closure being one of President Hollande’s first promises on gaining office in 2012.

“If EDF has a better proposal than closing Fessenheim, I will look at this proposal,” Royal said. “I will look with a lot of pragmatism at EDF proposals on which reactors to close…the decision will be made on the basis of which two reactors would cost the most in terms of investment.”
Segolene Royal
Two nuclear reactors must still be shut, to comply with a bill capping nuclear capacity, when EDF starts a new operation at Flamanville in Normandy.

Hollande’s plan to remove Fessenheim from the French grid has seen vigorous opposition from unions but he has been resolute in ensuring that a cap would be put on nuclear power as a means of reducing dependency on the sector and Fessenheim had been perceived as symbolic of that aim.

According to Bloomberg the softening in approach follows the Greens’ poor showing in 2012, record unemployment and EDF’s opposition.

“I am not in favor of getting out of nuclear,” Royal said. Atomic power is an “asset,” even though it requires heavy infrastructure and uranium imports, she said.

French lawmakers published a report estimating the financial costs of closing the site at 5 billion euros. They recommended delaying the decision to allow “an economically and technically profitable” asset to complete its lifespan.

Royal disagreed with the estimate, referring to it as a “far-fetched calculation.”


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