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France to relaunch construction of nuclear reactors, Macron announces

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced that France would launch a drive to build new nuclear energy plants in order to better meet growing energy and environmental challenges.

The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) construction site where will be installed the Tokamak, a confinement device being developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion power, in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southern France.
A general view taken on October 10, 2018 shows the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) construction site where will be installed the Tokamak, a confinement device being developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion power, in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southern France. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP)

“To guarantee France’s energy independence and achieve our objectives, in particular carbon neutrality in 2050, we will for the first time in decades relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country,” Macron said in an address to the nation.

“If we want to pay for our energy at reasonable prices, we need carbon-free energy,” said the President who said the new reactors would be the third generation EPR (Evolutionary Power Reactor) reactors.

“These investments will allow us to step up and meet our commitments as the COP26 in Glasgow closes,” he added.

In October Macron had already announced that France would spend one billion euros by 2030 in “disruptive innovation” to produce atomic power, notably by designing compact nuclear reactors known as “small modular reactors” (SMRs) with improved nuclear waste management.

Macron had asked French electricity giant EDF to study the feasibility of more next-generation EPR reactors.

EPR reactors – which use a pressurised water design – promise advances in safety and efficiency over conventional reactors while producing less waste.

But EDF has faced serious problems rolling out the technology and has managed to sell just a handful of the reactors as construction problems piled up.

EDF has been building an EPR reactor at Flamanville along the Atlantic coast of northwest France. It was originally set to go online in 2012 but the project has been plagued by technical problems and budget overruns.

France relies on nuclear power for nearly 72 percent of its electricity needs. The government initially wanted to reduce this to 50 percent by 2030 or 2035 by developing more renewable energy sources.

In his speech on Tuesday night Macron called for greater investment in green energy without adding more detail.

Member comments

  1. A good initiative though I am curious to know where they source their U-235 from (genuine question as I have no idea).

    1. Australia has the largest uranium reserves, but the US and Canada are also among the top producers. So are Germany and Ukraine. There are many sources, and plenty of it.

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POLITICS

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

The final composition of the new French government was announced on Friday. A new investigation suggests that historic rape allegations against a newly appointed minister were ignored.

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the France’s new government.

An investigation by Mediapart published the day after the final list of ministerial positions was announced revealed that two women have accused one of the appointees of rape. 

READ MORE Who’s who in France’s new government?

Damien Abad, the new Solidarity Minister denies the allegations and a police investigation into one allegation was dropped in 2017. But another could be about to open. 

Who is Damien Abad? 

Damien Abad is a 42-year-old son of a miner from Nimes in southern France who became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints.

Prior to his appointment as the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Disabled People, he was the leader of the France’s right-wing Republicans party in the Assemblée nationale

What are the allegations? 

Two alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, told Mediapart that Abad raped them on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.

The first woman described meeting Abad for dinner after having met him weeks earlier at a wedding. She said she blacked out after one glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in a hotel bed with Abad the next morning fearing she had been drugged. 

A second woman who lodged a formal charge against Abad in 2017 said that he harassed her by text message for years. She eventually agreed to meet with him one evening. After initially consenting, she told him to stop – but her plea fell on deaf ears as Abad raped her. 

What does Abad have to say? 

The new minister denies the accusations.

“It is physically impossible for me to commit the acts described,” he told Mediapart – in reference to his disability. 

He admitted to sending “sometimes intimate” messages, but said he had “obviously never drugged anyone”. 

“I was able to have adventures, I stand by my claim that they were always consensual.”

Is he under investigation? 

The second alleged victim made a formal allegation against Abad in 2017. 

A subsequent investigation was dropped later that year after a “lack of sufficient evidence was gathered”.

Mediapart report that Abad’s entourage were not questioned by police and that the MP told investigators that he had no memory of the alleged crime. 

The first alleged victim flagged the abuse to the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics – an unofficial watchdog monitoring elected bodies – earlier this month. 

The Observatory has since brought the case to the state prosecutor, but it is unclear if another investigation will be launched.  

Who knew? 

The tone deaf appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Interior Minister in 2020 was controversial because at the time he was under investigation for rape. His nomination was met with street protests in Paris and elsewhere. Feminists accused (and continue to accuse) Emmanuel Macron of not taking sexual violence seriously. 

The investigation into Darmanin’s alleged crime has since been dropped.

Some will question whether the naming of Abad shows that lessons have not been learned. 

“Once again a minister  in the government of Emmanuel Macron accused of rape,” said Caroline De Haas, the founder of the #NousToutes feminist movement. 

The Observatory sent a message warning senior party figures in the Republicans and LREM about the allegations on Monday – prior to Abad’s nomination. 

France’s new Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne denied having any knowledge of the warning. 

“I am going to be very clear on all these questions of harassment and sexual violence, there will be no impunity,” she said during a visit to Calvados. 

“If there are new elements, if the courts are summoned, we will accept the consequences.” 

READ MORE Who is Élisabeth Borne, France’s new PM?

The Observatory meanwhile claims it has been ignored. 

“Despite our alerts, Damien Abad who is accused of rape has been named in government. Thoughts and support to the victims,” it tweeted

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