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BUSINESS

EU needs to invest €500bn in new nuclear by 2050: internal markets commissioner

The European Union will need to invest 500 billion euros ($568 billion) in new generation nuclear power stations from now until 2050, the bloc's internal market commissioner said in an interview published at the weekend.

EU needs to invest €500bn in new nuclear by 2050: internal markets commissioner
France's new Flammanville 3 reactor, which was supposed to start in 2012, is now unlikely to start before the end of 2022. Its initial cost estimate was €3.3bn. The latest estimate is €19.1 billion. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP

“Existing nuclear plants alone will need 50 billion euros of investment from now until 2030. And new generation ones will need 500 billion!” Thierry Breton, a former French industry minister, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Breton also argued that an EU plan to label energy from nuclear power and natural gas as “green” sources for investment was a vital step towards attracting that capital.

The EU is consulting its member states on that proposal, with internal disagreement on whether the power sources truly qualify as sustainable options.

France has led the charge for nuclear power — its main energy supply — to be included, despite robust opposition from Austria and scepticism from Germany, which is in the process of shutting all its nuclear plants.

The proposal says the EU Commission “considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future”.

Currently the bloc gets 26 percent of its energy from nuclear power, but Breton estimated that by 2050, that would be reduced to around 15 percent.

The proposal also states that for nuclear power, appropriate measures should be put in place for radioactive waste management and disposal.

And it calls for the building of new nuclear power plants to be conditioned on permits given out before 2045, while work to extend the functioning of existing plants would need to be authorised before 2040

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ENVIRONMENT

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

Authorities in the French Alps said Friday they had closed down two popular mountain shelters used by Mont Blanc climbers because of potentially deadly drought-related rockfalls.

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

In a year marked by drought and heatwaves, rockfalls and gaping crevices have made access to the top of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain, even more difficult and perilous.

The mayor’s office in the Mont Blanc village of Saint-Gervais, said climbers were in “mortal danger” from rocks and shards coming loose because of dry weather and dropping from a height.

“All day long, we still see climbers going on the mountain range, all the time, as if this was Disneyland or the Parc Asterix,” said Saint-Gervais mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, in reference to two popular theme parks near Paris.

Hikers had been advised since last month to stay away because of the danger, but “they just don’t give a damn,” he told AFP.

READ MORE: ‘To pay funeral costs’ – Why Mont Blanc mayor wants to charge climbers

The closure of the two mountain shelters — Gouter with 120 overnight spots and Tete Rousse with 74, as well as a base camp accommodating up to 50 people — was to “show clearly that there is no accommodation available”.

The authorities had warned for weeks that falling rocks were a danger, he said, adding that crossing the Gouter mountain corridor represented “a mortal danger”, he said.

Nevertheless, 79 people stayed at the Gouter shelter Thursday night, he said.

The shelters will remain shut until normal weather conditions return, the mayor said, probably not before early September.

Peillex had warned Wednesday that Saint-Gervais would require a deposit of €15,000 from each hiker, saying the sum represented the average cost of a rescue operation and a funeral.

He was, however, advised that French law offers no basis for such a move.

A lack of snow during the winter has laid bare vast areas of greyish glacier — yellowish where sand dust from the Sahara has accumulated — riven with fractures on the Mont Blanc.

The heat did the rest, causing the fragile snow bridges to melt that make it possible to cross the crevasses, as well as leading to landslides.

Following several heatwaves, France is in the grip of severe drought, blamed by scientists on climate change.

On Friday, 100 municipalities across the country were without drinking water, Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said.

Calling the drought “historic”, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called a crisis meeting Friday to seek solutions.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is amplifying extreme weather — including the heatwaves, droughts and floods seen in several parts of the planet in recent weeks — and say these events will become more frequent and more intense.

The international community has agreed that climate change poses an existential threat to human systems and the natural world.

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