New French energy policy to limit nuclear

France’s nuclear generating capacity will be capped at its current level under a long-awaited draft energy policy announced today by energy minister Ségolène Royal.

French president Francois Hollande’s 2012 election pledge was to limit nuclear’s share of French generation at 50% by 2025, and the closure of France’s oldest nuclear power plant, Fessenheim, by the end of 2016. Now, following a national energy debate, his government has announced that the country’s nuclear generating capacity will indeed be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe. It will also be limited to 50% of France’s total output by 2025. Nuclear currently accounts for almost 75% of the country’s electricity production, making closures of power reactors appear inevitable.

While not calling for the closure of any currently operating power reactors, the new policy will mean that EDF would have to close older reactors in order to bring new ones online. The utility is currently constructing an EPR unit at Flamanville which is expected to be completed in late 2016. EDF would therefore be forced to shut one of its reactors – most likely Fessenheim – by that time in order to begin operating the Flamanville unit.

Royal said that the draft policy also reinforces nuclear safety by giving the French nuclear safety regulator – the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) – the power to impose higher penalties for safety breaches or delays in implementing requested safety measures. The policy, however, notes that safety standards have changed significantly since the construction of the first plant and have been particularly strengthened since the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The draft policy also sets the goal of a 40% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, compared with 1990’s level of 565 million tonnes, by 2030. By that time, renewable energy sources should account for 40% of electricity consumption and 32% of total energy use. The policy sets the objective of halving total energy consumption by 2050. It also sets ambitious targets for expanding the use of electric vehicles with the number of charging points increasing from the current 10,000 to 7 million by 2030. Financial incentives of up to €10,000 ($13,500) will be offered to encourage people to scrap diesel cars and to replace them with electric ones.

Royal said that regular reviews would be made of France’s energy situation and progress on meeting its longer-term “energy transition” objectives. These reviews, the first covering the period 2015-2018 and then every five years, would lead to “multi-year energy plans.”

“We will not exit nuclear energy – that is not the decision we are making,” Royal said. “It is thanks to nuclear energy that we can make this energy transition in an unperturbed way.”

Segolene announces draft energy policy - June 2014 - 460 (French energy ministry)
Royal presents the draft energy policy in Paris (Image: French energy ministry)

Source: World Nuclear News

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