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Nuclear Energy Not Affected by French Election

2010_06_04Centrale_nucléaire_de_Fessenheim2We’ve followed the French election here a bit because we were interested to see whether challenger Francois Hollande would hold to his stand to close 30 nuclear plants – a promise he made to the Green party when it appeared he might need its help against incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy. He’d already broken away from his pledge, but let’s see how things are going.

In the round one voting, Sarkozy (conservative) won about 25% of the vote, Hollande (liberal) about 28% and Marine Le Pen (reactionary) about 20%. Le Pen and the other minor party candidates now drop out and it’s Sarkozy vs. Hollande on May 6.

Anyway, Hollande has backed away from his earlier negative view of nuclear energy (but see below – he’s basically returned to his original view):

He wants to reduce the share of nuclear energy in the power supply to 50% from 75% by 2025, and promises to close the ageing Fessenheim nuclear plant but complete work on the advanced Flamanville European pressurized reactor power station.

But by increasing renewable energy sources, not a wholesale reduction of the nuclear fleet.

And Sarkozy? From the same rundown:

Backs nuclear power but says renewable energy will make up 23% of power supply by 2020.

Guess we’ll have to wait a few years to see where the percentages land. Increasing energy diversity would be an advisable move – if France goes forward with renewable energy sources, as seems likely, it’s all good. For baseload energy, after all, it’s covered. All clear, all clean.


If you want a broader view of French politics and nuclear energy, check out this article from last year – dated but very good.

While François Hollande sees nuclear power as an important part of the future of France’s energy landscape, Martine Aubry has declared that “France’s energy change should be characterized by phasing out nuclear in 20 or 30 years’ time”. France’s future energy supply would mainly come from renewable energy sources and the respective domestic industry would be subsidized through eco-taxes.

This is from before the Socialist party primary, obviously, and Hollande and Aubry mark out different views that remain consistent with the socialist ideology. We may say that the primary answered the question of the article: “Will the nuclear debate determine the French presidential election?” The answer: Non.



Anonymous said…
See, this is what I don't understand, and I don't understand why others don't understand. All the "eco-taxes" in the world will not make the wind blow when it isn't, and won't make the sun shine when it is night, or stop solar energy from being absorbed by clouds when it isn't a sunny day. The laws of physics are not suggestions. The solar constant is what it is, and no amount of legislating, taxing, wishing, hoping, planning, protesting, demonstrating, or anti-nuclear jingosim will change it. Right now the French have the lowest electricity costs per capita, the lowest emission of greenhouse gases per capita, have net exports of electricity, and it is all a result of a strong nuclear energy program. That anyone would speak out against that, much less seek to diminish it, runs counter to rationality.
Proteos said…
The problem with Hollande's approach is that it will fail to meet its stated target of reducing CO2 emissions. There are a few points that must taken into account:
* the french grid operator said that there was a risk of black out from 2016 onwards, a consequence of an EU directive against pollution: some coal plants will have to close -- many of them peak load plants. So unplugging other means of production is not recommanded if you do not build any other dispatchable means of production.
* renewables that we can build now in France are not dispatchable and have the usual intermittency problem. And beside, only onshore wind is somewhat competitive with other new builds. Intermittency basically means more fossil fuels in a system which is 90% nuclear+hydro.
* Electricity consumption is still rising in France (even if economical problems mask this) in some sectors. So, again, you want more dispatchables means of production. And if you want to get rid of fossil fuels you will turn to electricity, so this should drive demand up.

By the way, the agreement with the greens asks for the closure of 22 reactors by 2025, not 30 plants.

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