French lawmakers start examining a new bill on Monday aimed at speeding up the construction of new nuclear reactors, which President Emmanuel Macron says are crucial to bolstering France’s energy independence. Critics of the bill, however, say it ignores pressing concerns over the safety of the country’s ageing reactors as well as the industry’s dependence on uranium imported from Russia.
The proposed legislation comes a year after Macron pledged to modernise and expand the country’s nuclear industry in a dramatic policy U-turn, reversing his predecessor’s commitment to cap the share of nuclear power fuelling France at 50 percent – down from the current 70 percent, the highest in the world.
Macron has proposed the construction of six new French-designed EPR2 reactors, designed to enter service starting in 2035, with an option for a further eight reactors to follow. The bill is intended to streamline the administrative and bureaucratic processes needed to approve and build new plants. It also does away with the 50 percent cap introduced only eight years ago by former president François Hollande.
The bill’s chief sponsor Maud Bregeon, a lawmaker from Macron’s ruling Renaissance party, said the legislation would “allow France to reach carbon neutrality” by increasing the share of low-carbon energy derived from nuclear sources. Crucially, she added, it would also bolster the country’s energy independence as European countries scramble to wean themselves off Russian gas and oil amid the war in Ukraine.