Nuclear power and the French energy transition: A French Nuclear Exit? (Part 2)

Nuclear power and the French energy transition: A French Nuclear Exit (Part 2)

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 2 of this five-part installment on PennEnergy.com, Paris-based energy expert Mycle Schneider explains in compelling detail why France is at an energy crossroads. EDF and Areva both face serious financial difficulties; the French nuclear fleet is aging, with 22 of the country’s 58 reactors set to reach their 40-year lifetimes inside a decade; and in the wake of Fukushima, public opinion has tilted, at least to a degree, in favor of reducing the nation’s reliance on nuclear power.

Part 1: An introduction: A French nuclear exit?

Part 3: France’s great energy debate

Part 4: The legalities of leaving nuclear: A French Nuclear Exit?

Part 5: Nuclear chromosomes: The national security implications of a French nuclear exit

Nuclear power and the French energy transition: It’s the economics, stupid!
By Mycle Schneider


France is at an energy crossroads. To meet future electricity needs, the country could extend the operating lives of nuclear power plants beyond 40 years, accepting the safety challenges and costs of such a move, or it could change its energy mix, moving away from nuclear power and toward energy-efficiency measures and other energy sources. Until recently, the French government had refused even to examine the possibility of reducing the country’s reliance on nuclear power. But a study by independent French experts suggests that staying the nuclear course would be more expensive and less environmentally beneficial than authorities make it out to be. The difficult financial situation of two state-controlled firms involved in nuclear energy, EDF and Areva SA, will seriously affect the government’s operating margins. Those financial difficulties, the aging reactor fleet, and public opinion—which is largely in favor of a nuclear phase-out—will force the government to make fundamental choices in the near future about its energy strategy.

From the 1960s until the 2012 presidential elections, the French government had overwhelmingly and unwaveringly supported the nuclear power industry, not even budging after the Fukushima catastrophe. When the nuclear path is questioned, French political leaders and nuclear industry representatives frequently respond by pointing to the country’s inexpensive electricity and relatively low greenhouse gas emissions. Any suggestion that nuclear power’s share of the national energy mix might be lowered or phased out altogether tends to be met with dire predictions of environmental and economic disaster.

For example, in its 2012 annual reference document, Électricité de France SA (EDF), the Paris-based, state-controlled firm that operates power-generating reactors, stated that a reduction from 75 percent to 50 percent in nuclear energy’s share of electricity production by 2030 would raise electricity prices by 75 percent, increase greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, and force a “substantial” increase in fossil fuel imports (EDF Group, 2012). A full nuclear exit by 2030, EDF warned, would double electricity prices and increase greenhouse gas emissions fivefold.

Access the complete article here:
Nuclear power and the French energy transition: It’s the economics, stupid!

Part 1: An introduction: A French nuclear exit?

Part 3: France’s great energy debate

Part 4: The legalities of leaving nuclear: A French Nuclear Exit?

Part 5: Nuclear chromosomes: The national security implications of a French nuclear exit



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