BELFORT, FRANCE – President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to unveil France’s plans to build new nuclear reactors as part of the country’s strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
Macron was expected to provide a roadmap for the building of third-generation EPR reactors during a visit Thursday to the eastern town of Belfort.
The move comes amid concerns about spikes in energy prices and France’s dependence on global gas and oil producers.
French electricity giant EDF, which is over 80% owned by the French state, has submitted a plan to build six of the pressurized water reactors for an estimated 50 billion euros ($57 billion).
Nuclear energy currently provides about 70% of French electricity, more than in any other country.
Before Macron’s visit to Belfort, the home of GE Energy’s European headquarters, EDF announced a deal to buy the nuclear turbines branch of the American manufacturer.
The deal will allow EDF to “strengthening its commitment to the nuclear power sector, creating an industry-leading global steam turbine equipment and services provider,” the French group said in a statement Thursday.
In 2007, France began building an EPR reactor in the Normandy commune of Flamanville, where it already operates a nuclear power plant. But the construction is running over a decade late and its estimated cost has more than tripled. EDF says it plans the reactor to start up next year.
France’s nuclear safety authority agreed last year to extend the operational lifetime of the country’s 32 oldest nuclear reactors by a decade to up to 50 years. Most nuclear reactors were built in the 1980s, meaning they could be shut down in the 2030s.
The government argues the construction of new nuclear reactors will allow France to meet its commitment to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and help reduce the country’s dependency on imported fossil fuels.
Nuclear energy produces much lower emissions than coal, oil or gas, but nuclear plants are very expensive to build and produce radioactive waste that remains deadly for tens of thousands of years.
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