April 13. 2024. 6:54

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France looking to liberal Netherlands in push for nuclear revival

Paris is looking towards “liberal” allies such as the Netherlands to revive its nuclear industry, French Green MP Julie Laernoes told EURACTIV, after the country’s National Assembly approved a bill seeking to build six new reactors.

France’s National Assembly approved the bill, which scraps a 50% limit on the share of nuclear in France’s electricity mix, on Tuesday (21 March) with 402 votes in favour and 130 against.

While the bill still needs a second vote of approval to go through, the numbers suggest parliament will most likely rubberstamp the new law.

“We are moving forward on the third pillar of our energy transition,” Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said after the vote, in reference to French efforts at reducing energy consumption and building more renewables.

Olivier Marleix, the president of the right-wing Les Républicains group in the National Assembly, which supported the bill, said the text represents a “long-awaited turnaround”.

French MPs pave way to dropping legal limit on nuclear in energy mix

Lawmakers voted in favour of doing away with the 50% legal limit on nuclear in the country’s total energy mix on Thursday as part of France’s larger efforts to build newer, more modern nuclear plants.

Nuclear alliance

The approval of the bill comes at a time when France is trying to push the role that its low-carbon nuclear power mix can play in the EU’s energy transition.

France launched a “nuclear alliance” at the end of February, aiming to promote European cooperation along the entire nuclear supply chain and launch “common industrial projects” in new generation capacity as well as small modular reactors.

To broaden support, France is “looking for other partners in Europe” such as the Netherlands, said Laernoes, a French MP of dual French-Dutch nationality who sits with the opposition Green party.

Like other Green lawmakers in the National Assembly, Laernoes voted against the motion to revive nuclear power in France and opposes French-led moves to build more nuclear reactors across Europe.

“The Netherlands was very much oriented towards Germany and Emmanuel Macron is looking for very liberal allies. The Netherlands is very liberal,” she told EURACTIV.

The Netherlands is part of the “nuclear alliance” spearheaded by France. Larnoes, who is chairwoman of the Franco-Dutch parliamentary friendship group, is set to meet the Dutch prime minister on 11 and 12 April as part of a French delegation led by Macron.

The trip will be an opportunity to discuss subsidies for Europe’s green industry, French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a joint press conference in mid-February.

Eleven EU countries launch alliance for nuclear power in Europe

Signatories committed on Tuesday (28 February) to “cooperate more closely” across the entire nuclear supply chain, and promote “common industrial projects” in new generation capacity as well as new technologies like small reactors.

Net-Zero Industry Act

Last week, the European Commission presented its Net-Zero Industry Act, a legislative proposal that describes nuclear power as one of the key technologies needed to attain the EU’s carbon neutrality goal.

Although Paris welcomed the EU’s announcement, it also noted that France’s new generation of pressurised water reactors – known as EPRs – do not appear in a separate list of ‘Strategic Net-Zero technologies’ eligible to receive “particular support” from the EU.

The status of nuclear power in the Net-Zero Industry Act will be debated in upcoming negotiations on the text in the European Parliament, said Christophe Grudler, a French MEP sitting with the centrist Renew group in Parliament which includes lawmakers from the French presidential majority.

However, for Laernoes, the French government is waving “an ideological mantra”, as for the time being, “we still don’t have the design of the EPR2s, nor have we validated the extension of existing plants”.

Although the lifetime extension of existing nuclear power plants to 60 years was approved by the text voted on Tuesday, the president of the French Nuclear Safety Authority indicated that a position should be taken by the end of 2026 at the earliest.

“The political text is very far from the industrial and financial reality,” said Laernoes. “France is simply trying to sell off its old nuclear power plants,” she told EURACTIV.

EU’s Net-Zero Industry Act sends ‘positive signal’ for nuclear, advocates say

After a series of twists and turns, the European Commission finally decided to include nuclear power in its proposed Net-Zero Industry Act – a “positive political signal” for nuclear advocates even if they remain wary about the detail of the text.