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Report proposes building 6 new nuclear reactors in France

SNL Image

The construction site of the Flamanville 3 reactor in Normandy, France, in 2008.

Source: AP Photo

A report commissioned by the French government is recommending that the country build six new next-generation nuclear reactors from 2025, French financial newspaper Les Echos reported Aug. 30.

The paper broke the news of the report, which it says was submitted to the environment and finance ministries this summer, two days after French environment minister Nicolas Hulot resigned from his post citing frustration with the government's progress on environmental issues.

Hulot had been at odds with the French government backtracking on its target to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear power to 50% of the energy mix by 2025. The government is scheduled to release its final energy roadmap for the period until 2028, which is expected to detail new plans for the target, by the end of this year.

France now derives approximately 75% of its electricity from nuclear, according to the World Nuclear Association. All of its 58 reactors are operated by state-controlled Electricité de France SA, which declined to comment on the report through a spokesman.

The energy giant is already replacing some of its oldest reactors with next-generation European Pressurized Reactors, or EPRs. It is building a 1,650-MW EPR at its existing Flamanville plant in Normandy, which is due to go into operation at the end of 2019 at the earliest. After it does, EDF is required to take its two oldest reactors at Fessenheim, which have a capacity of 900 MW each, off the grid. From 2025, nuclear capacity is capped by law at 63.2 GWe.

Les Echos said the report was written by a nuclear industry veteran and a former defense official and suggests breaking ground on the first of six additional new EPRs in 2025, for completion in 2035. The rest of the reactors would follow in increments of two years each.

The French Ministry for an Ecological and Solidary Transition, which is responsible for energy policy, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told radio station Radio Classique on Aug. 30 that government policy would not be decided by a report but that nuclear power was "an asset for France," according to Reuters.

He also said the government would be wise to wait for the completion of EDF's Flamanville reactor before making any decisions, according to French daily Libération.

EDF's CEO, Jean-Bernard Lévy, has previously said he expects France to build 30 new-generation reactors in the coming decades, according to Reuters. A report by the French daily Libération, published after Hulot's resignation, said the former minister had predicted earlier this summer that three more reactors would be built in the next few years if he were to leave the government.

Phasing out nuclear power plants and strong government support are key to boosting France's solar capacity, according to estimates from Fitch Solutions Ltd. Analysts at the firm said Aug. 8 that installed solar capacity in France would more than triple through 2027, reaching 28,000 MW.