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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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STRIKES

French unions vow to fight pension reform, with ‘mobilisation beginning in January’

France's eight biggest unions have issued a joint statement promising massive, co-ordinated strikes and demonstrations in January if the government goes ahead with planned pension reforms.

French unions vow to fight pension reform, with 'mobilisation beginning in January'

“We will decide on a first date of a united mobilisation with strikes and demonstrations in January, if the government remains stubborn on its pension reform project,” reads the statement issued on Monday by the eight largest and most influential unions – CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, Unsa, Solidaires and FSU.

All eight are strongly opposed to the reforms to the pension system being introduced by Emmanuel Macron’s government and are promising a repeat of the 2019 pension protests, which saw two months of widespread transport strikes that brought railways and Paris public transport to a halt.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is due to present the detailed plan for pension reform on December 15th, including raising the French pension age.

Macron’s government already introduced pension reform back in 2019 – leading to two months of strikes – which streamlined and simplified the state pension system. The reforms scrapped many of the ‘special regimes’ that allowed certain professions to retire early, but left the overall pension age at 62.

READ ALSO What you need to know about French pension reforms

The reforms were due to be implemented in 2020, but as a result of the pandemic they were never brought into effect. During the 2022 presidential election campaign, Macron included in his manifesto a promise to introduce these reforms and to go further – raising the pension age from 62 to 65.

Unions are implacably opposed to this, and were joined in their statement by several student and high school pupils unions, who stated: “The youth, already strongly affected by precarious work situations and low pay, would be strongly impacted by this reform.”

The strikes in 2019 saw two months of extremely limited service on the national railways, and weeks of virtual shutdown of public transport in Paris. It was the longest continuous transport strike since 1968. There were also periodic strikes from a wide range of employees including teachers, lawyers, waste collectors and even ballet dancers.

Speaking on Monday evening, Yvan Ricordeau, national secretary of the CFDT union, said: “We are united tonight in opposition to 65-year pension age, if the government confirms that.

“There will necessarily be a first date [for strikes] at the time of the official announcement of the reform, in January. And then there will be other dates, designed to ensure that employees oppose the 65-year limit and that these provisions are withdrawn from the pension reform bill.”

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