Make way for the French nuclear renaissance

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for 13 new nuclear reactors in what he called a “revival” of the country’s nuclear industry.

France, like its European peers, has ambitious plans to move away from fossil fuels. For some, that means an aggressive plan to move away from natural gas and crude oil and towards wind, solar, geothermal or hydrogen. For other European countries, it includes a robust nuclear power program.

In the years to come, France will have to “produce a lot more electricity,” Macron said in a speech Thursday outside a turbine factory.

Macron’s plan provides for an order for six new-generation ERP2 reactors (European Pressurized Reactor), and an order for a study of eight additional reactors.

“What we need to build today is the renaissance of the French nuclear industry because it’s the right time, because it’s the right thing for our nation, because everything is in place”, Macron said.

Nuclear energy – and its green label – has caused dissension among European countries. France, a nuclear power, has lobbied in recent weeks to include nuclear power in its plans to cut carbon emissions. Germany, for its part, has openly chastised the European Commission for its decision to classify nuclear investments as climate-friendly. Nuclear power has been called a transitional green energy source.

Germany plans to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022.

But Macron sees nuclear power as key to moving away from dirtier fossil fuels – in fact, he sees it as the only way to ensure a smooth energy transition.

But Macron’s nuclear power plans depend on his victory in the next election, which will be held from April 10-24.

Alongside his plans for more nuclear power, Macron also announced plans for massive investments in renewable energy. Its renewable plans call for 50 offshore wind farms in France, which currently has none, and double onshore solar capacity.

By Julianne Geiger for

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Felix J. Dixon