On nuclear power, can we go “too fast” as Macron wants?

On nuclear power, can we go "too fast" as Macron wants?
Stephen Mahe/AFP French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm on the coast of the Gourande peninsula, western France, on September 22, 2022, in the sub-province of Saint-Nazaire. (Photo: STEPHANE MAHE / POOL / AFP)

Stephen Mahe/AFP

President Emmanuel Macron in Saint-Nazaire after visiting an offshore wind farm on September 22, 2022. (Photo by Stephen Mahe/Pool/AFP)

Nuclear – Open first EPR reactors before 2035? This is the promise made by Emmanuel Macron, not to mention the chosen New Horizons. arrival St. Nasir On Thursday, September 22, the President made his choice based on energy: renewables, at the center of his visit to the first park.Offshore wind turbines French, but also nuclear.

On the renewable side, the head of state has announced that he wants to go “twice as fast”to attain the image of one “Fifty Sea Windmills” In 2050, offshore wind power continued. Equally excited about solar, Emmanuel Macron raised a possibility “Land Release” : Permission to place solar panels on industrial wastelands or even on the side of highways.

Be atomic, therefore. ” I announced the first installment of nuclear energy in 2035. I wish we could go very fast “, announced the President, resuming his plans published last February. He then promised 6 EPR reactors By 2035 (the Flamanville planned in 2012 is no longer operational), and 8 additional reactors are under study to meet French energy needs.

So it’s time to show a solid boost at a time when tension is felt in the network. An ambition that will be implemented with a law on the acceleration of renewables to be passed by the Council of Ministers on September 26, and Emmanuel Macron wants to take inspiration from the nuclear fleet: “If we simplify things we can go much faster, so we’ll be in the same logic in nuclear power”.

But it’s not that simple, explains Ludovic Dubin, Director of Information at the French Nuclear Energy Agency (SFEN).

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Can the president go as fast as he wants? And for what profit?

It is not possible to speed up the construction part of the project, but before the concrete is laid, yes. Administrative area, environmental impact assessment, building permit… Today these exams are sequential, done one after the other, or some of them may be done in parallel. Of course, this does not mean lowering safety standards or public debate. It was announced Agnes Pannier-RunacherLegislation creates equivalent “nuclear acceleration” for renewables by January 2023.

Does it really save time?

Two things are limited. Decisions have not been made at this time, and the law still provides for the closure of twelve reactors, leaving six open. Hence the need for a new law. Then, we need this simplifying law as soon as possible; The reactor will still be operational in 2035, before concrete pouring starts in 2027, but we’re getting there: Emmanuel Macron’s announcements on construction schedules have been released in a very tense manner. With this simplification, we allow for construction risks.

When nuclear power raises so many questions in terms of security, does wanting to speed up seem like a viable strategy to you?

Cutting corners on defense is literally impossible. The Nuclear Safety Commission is independent. This hazard was discovered in the current French park [plus d’une dizaine de réacteurs français sont à l’arrêt pour des raisons de corrosion], is currently under repair. Additionally, EPRs are another technology. Finally, today’s critical issue is to be more autonomous, less dependent on fossil fuels, and the solution involves a combination of nuclear and renewables.

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