France’s parliament voted with a large majority in favour of the government’s plan for nuclear investment on Tuesday (21 March). This vote came just days after the government narrowly survived a non-confidence vote on its pension reform plan.
With 402 votes for and 130 against, the nuclear renewal plan was approved. Its key component is the construction of six more nuclear reactors. 278 lawmakers supported an opposition-led motion of no confidence on Monday. This was nine votes shy of the 287 required to bring down the government.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted: "After the Senate last Month, the lower house tonight by a large majority voted for the nuclear plan...the result of a co-construction, which aims to combat climate change and ensure our energy sovereignty."
After his government almost collapsed over the pension reform plan and his government was forced to resign, President Emmanuel Macron wants to regain the initiative through new reforms within the next weeks. Nuclear energy is also an issue on which his centrist party is in agreement with both the conservative Les Republicains and the far-right Rassemblement National.
"Our objective" is to make France a major carbon free and sovereign country, Energy Minister Agnes Pannier Runacher tweeted. She also said that this was the first block in the "immense project" of relaunching the nuclear industry.
She stated that administrative procedures should not be slowing down the extension of the lives of existing reactors, or the construction of new ones in the race for nuclear.
Pannier-Runacher stated, "With this project we are launching a huge scientific, industrial, and human adventure that the country has known ever since the seventies."
Macron plans to begin construction of the first EPR2 next-generation nuclear reactor in his second five year term, May 2027. This is part of a €52 billion ($56bn) plan for six new reactors.
France’s 56 reactor fleet has been experiencing major outages for months. This has caused nuclear power production to drop to its lowest level in 30 years. Meanwhile, the first-generation EPR being built in Flamanville (western France) is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
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