Macron plans to build nuclear power plants


French President Emmanuel Macron did an about-face announcing his commitment to build up to 14 next-generation reactors and a fleet of small nuclear power plants. Macron had previously pledged to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear power. But now, he says, “the time has come for a nuclear renaissance”, as Europe faces soaring prices for natural gas and electricity due to its shift to renewables, mainly electricity. wind and solar energy. Nuclear power generation fell in Europe as France, Europe’s largest nuclear power producer, had to take some of its nuclear power plants out of service for maintenance. France wants to consolidate its position as Europe’s leading producer of atomic energy and position Electricité de France, or EDF, to compete with Chinese and American companies in the global nuclear power market.

France plans to build six next-generation pressurized water reactors at existing nuclear sites from 2028 for an estimated starting price of 50 billion euros ($57 billion), with an option to consider adding more. build up to eight more by 2050. France also plans to build a prototype small modular reactor by 2030, as other countries (such as China) are also building modular reactors. In December, China commissioned a pebble-bed reactor – the fourth generation of high-temperature gas-fired reactors – in eastern China’s Shandong province, with a production capacity of about 200 megawatts. The potential role of the nuclear industry in reducing carbon dioxide emissions has become a central issue in the upcoming presidential election in France.

Germany and some other European countries are wary of nuclear proliferation. Germany, for example, plans to shut down its last nuclear power plants this year, following a 2011 policy set by former Chancellor Angela Merkel after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan. Environmental groups are also against the construction of nuclear power plants on the grounds that nuclear energy generates long-term radioactive waste.

The French nuclear industry

The French nuclear industry is a national priority, creating approximately 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. France has 56 nuclear reactors – the most after the United States, with 93 – generating 70% of its electricity and exporting electricity to other countries. EDF, however, recently warned that its nuclear power production would fall to the lowest levels since the 1990s due to problems at some sites. The company temporarily closed 10 reactors, down from 17 in December, for maintenance and to repair cracks found in pipes at some plants. As a result, France has had to produce more electricity from its coal-fired power plants, import coal-generated electricity from Germany, and rely on natural gas imports as energy prices were skyrocketing due to natural gas shortages, low wind resources and conflict. between Russia and Ukraine. Russia typically supplies around 40% of European natural gas imports, but it has reduced its deliveries.

Frenchman Macron realizes that the country’s existing wind and solar capacity cannot make up for the shortfall in its nuclear power generation. As such, Macron also intends to build at least 50 offshore wind farms, double France’s onshore wind capacity, and increase its solar capacity tenfold, to reach more than 100 gigawatts by 2030 because wind and solar power plants can be built more faster than nuclear. power plants due to less regulatory control, meeting France’s more immediate energy needs.

As in the United States with units 3 and 4 of the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, the French pressurized nuclear reactors experienced delays and additional costs. For example, a reactor in the town of Flamanville, in northwestern France, which was due to be completed in 2012 at a cost of 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion), will not open until minus 2023, with the cost rising to over 12 billion euros ($13.66 billion) – a factor of 4. Another French-built reactor in Finland was due to open in 2009, but it is not expected to start production at full power before June. The EDF-backed Taishan nuclear power plant in China’s Guangdong province also faced “performance issues” last year. Macron wants the French government to “take responsibility” in securing EDF’s finances and its short- and medium-term financing capacity. France will provide the company with what is expected to amount to tens of billions in state aid now that the European Union has classified nuclear power as a green investment.


France’s contenders, including President Macron, realize the country must continue its nuclear program in order to have reliable energy that also reduces carbon dioxide emissions. As such, Macron plans to build with the help of the government at least 6 nuclear reactors and to develop a modular prototype unit. In the meantime, France will continue to build offshore wind and solar units, which can be built faster and provide more immediate energy needs than nuclear plants.

Although the United States currently has more reactors than France, apart from 2 units under construction at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, there are no plans to add more nuclear power to the United States. President Biden’s energy plans are to build wind and solar units with federal incentives to replace current electricity generated by fossil fuels and to replace fossil fuels in other energy-consuming sectors with electricity generated by renewable energy and backed up by batteries. The feasibility of this colossal undertaking is questionable, especially given the current energy crisis in Europe caused in large measure by similar policies.

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