The President continues to rely on nuclear power. But these are weakening, only every second one is in operation – with potentially dramatic consequences in winter.
from Paris Simone Weiler
Seldom in recent years has Emmanuel Macron missed an opportunity to extol the virtues of nuclear energy. “France has a historic opportunity, that’s nuclear power,” he said around July 2021. This form of energy is reliable and CO2-arm.
In February of this year, the French President even announced that the industry would “rebound”: six new reactors were to be built and the construction of eight more to be examined, and the operating times of the existing power plants would be extended if possible.
In doing so, Macron followed the path taken by all his predecessors with the exception of the socialist François Hollande, who wanted to reduce the share of nuclear energy in France’s energy mix from 70 to 50 percent. A goal that Macron soon revised.
But this strategy is now raising questions in the country, which has the second largest nuclear park in the world after the United States. The reliability argument no longer applies: Due to planned maintenance work and corrosion damage to a series of reactors, almost half of the 56 reactors are idle. The problems have been going on since last winter. The German Economics Minister Robert Habeck justified the bottlenecks on the European electricity market, among other things, with the problems in France, which arose independently of the war in Ukraine.
Bet on the wrong horse?
A few days ago, the French operator EDF announced that it would have to significantly lower the forecast for total electricity production from nuclear power for the current year: The production capacity this year will be “historically low”, said the group, which is now being completely nationalized again. to know. In September, Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed on an exchange in view of the looming energy crisis: Germany would supply electricity to France, which in turn would help its neighbor with gas.
According to energy expert Yves Marignac from the négaWatt association, French electricity production in 2022 will fall below 50 percent of the previous year’s level – an unprecedented situation that could put the country under pressure in winter: “Everything will depend on possible cold waves, because the French electricity system is strongly subject to the heating demand.”
In fact, many heaters run electrically – electricity has always been considered cheap and infinitely available. Marignac criticizes the “growing dependency of electricity security on a vulnerable nuclear park” and appeals to politicians to expand renewable energies more.
Macron promised that. At the opening of the first Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm at the end of September, which has taken ten years to build before it is operational, he set out the goal of reducing delays in the expansion of wind and solar power. The government is planning a corresponding draft law. However, there were no clear specifications for deadlines, as required by the EU Commission. France was the only EU country not to have reached its self-imposed target of 23 percent for renewable energies in 2020.
In fact, the focus of investments remains on nuclear energy. The government not only wants to boost the expansion of offshore wind power, among other things, but is also working on a law to speed up the construction of new power plants by simplifying procedures. At the beginning of 2023 it should come to parliament, where there is likely to be a majority in favor of expanding nuclear energy.
In principle, Macron does not allow any criticism of his nuclear course. He “brought clarity to the industry from the first months of my first term,” he said at a press conference. He just posted a 12-minute video on Twitter in which he responded to questions about environmental protection – confident, dynamic and articulate as always.