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Announcing new reactors, Macron bets on nuclear power in carbon-neutral push

French President Emmanuel Macron visits a nuclear turbine factory in Belfort, eastern France, on February 10, 2022. © Jean-François Badias, AFP

France will build at least six new nuclear reactors in the decades to come, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, placing nuclear power at the heart of his country’s drive for carbon neutrality by 2050

Macron said the new plants would be built and operated by state-controlled energy provider EDF and that tens of billions of euros in public financing would be mobilized to finance the projects and safeguard EDF’s finances.

Promising to accelerate the development of solar and offshore wind power in France, Macron also announced he wanted to extend the lives of older nuclear plants to 50 years from 40 years currently provided it was safe.

“We are fortunate in France to be able to count on a strong nuclear industry, rich in know-how and with hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Macron said, unveiling his new nuclear strategy in the eastern industrial town of Belfort.

The announcement comes at a difficult time for debt-laden EDF which is grappling with corrosion problems that have forced multiple old nuclear reactors offline for extended periods and with having to persuade foreign buyers it can deliver projects on time and to budget.

Macron’s nuclear blueprint cements his commitment to nuclear power, a mainstay of postwar France’s industrial prowess but whose future was uncertain early in his mandate as he promised to reduce the weight of nuclear in the country’s energy mix.

Macron’s thinking has been shaped by the European Union’s ambitious goals for carbon neutrality within three decades, which put renewed focus on energy forms that emit fewer, or zero, greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, including nuclear.

The first new-generation EPR reactor would come online by 2035, Macron said. Studies for a further eight reactors beyond the initial half-dozen new plants would be launched, he added.

Macron said the state would assume its responsibilities in securing EDF’s finances and its short- and medium-term financing capacity.

“We will not let EDF down,” Macron said.

Source: France 24