Monday, December 03, 2012

Meanwhile, In France … Losing the Nuclear Advantage

FrancoisHollande
President Francois Hollande
We’ve had a merry time showing that the German effort to close its nuclear plants has been ill-advised and counterproductive.

Meanwhile, in France, President Francois Hollande wants to reduce dependence on nuclear energy or at least, close the oldest of the plants:
“The Fessenheim plant which is the oldest in our country, will be closed at the end of 2016 in conditions that will guarantee the supply needs of the region... and safeguard all jobs,” say Hollande, as quoted in a French news outlet. The country operates 58 nuclear reactors. Twenty-four of them would be retired by 2025.
What happens in 2025 is likely not under Hollande’s purview, so we’ll wait on that one. Closing Fessenheim seems more a symbolic gesture, so fine.

The article at Energy Central shows that the French may have missed a few tricks:
The new French president has painted himself in a corner: He has vowed to reduce the nation’s most plentiful resource, nuclear energy. But he has also declared that one of the most critical fuels there will be off-limits, shale gas. The most promising road ahead, he insists, is the development of renewable energy.

Will it work? No, given that the French nuclear sector employs a reported 400,000 union workers and that nuclear energy helps provide an enviable standard of living there.
The article has more to say and altogether makes a pretty good case for taking care not to make hasty energy choices.
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We can always find examples favorable to our cause. France seems at least moderately serious about finding a way to supplement nuclear energy – and really, there’s nothing wrong with that. And maybe it will will find a way to unblock its options.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said then the group was to develop a "road map" for the implementation of the energy transition, which would include a sharp focus on renewable energy.

"The profound crisis that we are experiencing is not just financial and economic one, but an environmental one as well," he said, adding the government would launch a new tender for the construction of two offshore wind farms located off Le Treport and Noirmoutier by the end of December, France24 reported.
The group mentioned above is a gathering of leaders from different spheres.
The debate process will be led by seven "colleges" comprised of representatives of trade unions, employers, environmental non-governmental organizations, consumer associations, chambers of commerce, local elected officials, parliamentarians and government ministers.
French energy types are annoyed by this process, but that’s to be expected.
French energy industry leaders have blasted Hollande's move from nuclear power, citing current energy costs that are among the lowest in Europe as well as the country's low levels of carbon emissions.
Which brings us back around to where we started. France already has enviably low-cost, low-emission electricity generation.

Hmmm - This attempt to find something more critical of nuclear energy isn’t coming to much. It may be that nuclear energy isn’t the issue here. It may be that, lacking a problem to solve, France has set out to solve one anyway – even if the outcome creates the problem you were purporting to solve.
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This doesn’t help the effort to be even-handed, either, but at least it shows that renewable energy can bring about positive if expensive outcomes:
France’s power grid will have to invest about 15 billion euros ($19 billion) by the end of the decade to add and refurbish electricity transmission lines as the country plans to lower its reliance on nuclear energy.

Spending could rise to 35 billion to 50 billion euros by 2030, Reseau de Transport d’Electricite said in a report published today. The range depends on the proportion of nuclear and renewable energies produced in France in the coming years.
The reason for this is because nuclear energy produces electricity 24/7 while renewable energy source do not and require, for lack of a better term, more precise metering. Building a so-called “smart grid” to do this is not at all a bad goal – it’s a long overdue infrastructure program in this country, too – and it could provide France with more options among its energy choices.

Still, it is $19 billion and that’s likely to hit the ratepayers bottom line fairly significantly. But maybe that’s just the cost of progress – if this does seem like progress – which it doesn’t to me.

5 comments:

Rainer Klute said...

The $19 billion hurdle could become a nice excuse for Hollande to abstain from his plans or at least delay them. ;-)

jim said...

Amazing how political fear of non-pragmatic "Greens" can drive a first class nation towards second banana status.

James Greenidge
Queen NY

SteveK9 said...

'Lacking a problem to solve', that says it all. France is in an enviable position, but seems determined to degrade it. The article is full of the issues of trying to do something else, which leaves the question ... what is wrong with nuclear ... answer, nothing.

pat said...

nuclear plants don't produce 24/7, they have lots of down time for refueling or repairs or SCRAMS.

Anonymous said...

I beg to disagree. There is nothing "fine" about closing Fessenheim. There is nothing good about closing down a perfectly functional nuclear power plant just to satisfy the anti-nuclear Greens. Do you think they will ever be satisfied as long as even one nuclear power plant is still in operation? This sets a terrible precedent in France, and sometimes I wonder if this blog really is pro-nuclear or not.