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German decision re-ignites nuclear debate in France

Reuters/Robert Pattra
3 min

Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 has pushed the issue further up the agenda in France, which is Europe's biggest producer of nuclear energy.


Prime Minister François Fillon said on Monday, that while Paris "respects" Germany's decision, France views nuclear power as a "solution for the future", though Foreign minister Alain Juppé added that "this does not mean we should not develop alternative energy sources".

And French president Nicolas Sarkozy will not welcome the resurgence of the debate over nuclear energy in France.

He is an indefatiguable salesman for France's nuclear industry, and reacted to the Fukushima disaster in Japan, by emphasising the extra safety features of French-made nuclear reactors compared to their cheaper rivals.

French company Areva is one of a handful of world leaders in the field of nuclear energy expertise and engineering.

France has 58 nuclear reactors, and 75 per cent of France's own electricity is nuclear- generated, making it significantly cheaper than in many other European countries.

Polls show that most French people support the country's nuclear industry, though that support has dropped since the Fukushima disaster in Japan and since German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision on Monday, there has been renewed debate over the issue in the French media.

On Tuesday, one regional daily, La Charente Libre questioned France's over-reliance on nuclear energy, asking "Can we, just because we have put all our eggs in one basket, continue to claim that we alone are right?"

There is much worry that Germany will now put its considerable ability and economic might into serious research and development, to become the world leader in environmentally friendly, danger-free renewable energy production and delivery.

France's Green politicians, a normally fractious bunch, say the country's over-mighty nuclear lobby has quashed debate on the subject and dissuaded the government from adequate investment in non-nuclear renewable energy possibilities.

They now have to decide whether to make the phasing-out of nuclear energy a condition of any support they lend to Socialist candidates in presidential and legislative elections.

And the Socialists themselves, already reeling from the shock of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn bombshell, are now plunged into another debate on which they are completely divided.

Among those emerging as likely Socialist candidates for the presidency in 2012, there are different viewpoints: François Hollande is considered pro-nuclear, while Martine Aubry is not a big supporter of the industry.







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