The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has released its latest issue, “A French nuclear exit?,” featuring four comprehensive editorials on the complexities of a possible French nuclear phase-out.
In Part 3 of this five-part installment on PennEnergy.com, Paris-based energy expert Mycle Schneider explains in his companion article, “France’s great energy debate,” a political landscape that has become less supportive of nuclear power than has historically been the case.
Part 1: An introduction: A French nuclear exit?
part 2: Nuclear power and the French energy transition: It’s the economics, stupid!
Part 4: The legalities of leaving nuclear: A French Nuclear Exit?
France's great energy debate
By Mycle Schneider
Many countries rethought their domestic nuclear power programs after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. In fact, even France—which generates half of the European Union’s nuclear electricity—has a new approach to nuclear power and to energy policy. President François Hollande vowed to reduce use of nuclear power, and his administration is moving to close the country’s two oldest reactors at Fessenheim. The government also plans to sponsor a large public debate on the future of energy policy in France, and that discussion is supposed to include all major stakeholders. It remains unclear, however, whether the debate will be a democratic exercise that influences the policy-making process, or if policy will continue to be determined by the technocratic elites who have guided France’s energy and nuclear programs from their outset.
Many countries—including Belgium, China, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and Taiwan—made post-Fukushima announcements about rethinking their domestic nuclear power programs, or even phasing them out. But France? The country that generates half of the nuclear electricity in the European Union, and that the international nuclear industry sees as a dreamland? The country that has provided uninterrupted political support to the nuclear sector since World War II?
There can, in fact, be no doubt that the current French government has a new approach to nuclear power. No other French administration has ever vowed to reduce nuclear power, as President François Hollande’s has. The president and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault have confirmed that they intend to close the country’s two oldest reactors at Fessenheim, which have been a constant cause of concern and protest on both sides of the Franco-German border. The government is also planning a large public debate on the future of energy policy, and it is supposed to include all major stakeholders. The question remaining to be answered, however, is whether the debate will be a democratic exercise that influences the policy-making process, or if policy, in the end, will continue to be determined by the technocratic elites who have guided France’s energy and nuclear programs from their outset.
Access the complete article here: France’s great energy debate