In a push to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, Mr Macron has revealed plans of building at least six new nuclear reactors in the decades to come. On Thursday, he announced that state-owned energy company EDF will build and operate the new power plants, and is set to receive “tens of billions of euros” in public financing to run the projects and safeguard the company’s finances. He also promised to extend the lifespan of older nuclear reactors in the country, keeping them running for another 50-60 years, “provided they were safe”.
In his speech, Mr Macron predicted that the construction work for the reactors would begin around 2028 with the first one being expected to be completed in 2035.
The French president has also asked for studies on potentially expanding the program to eight reactors.
EDF, the state-owned energy company, has estimated building the six pressurized water reactors, known as EPRs, will cost around 50 billion euros (£42 billion).
Unveiling his new strategy, Mr Macron said: “We are fortunate in France to be able to count on a strong nuclear industry, rich in know-how and with hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
France is heavily reliant on nuclear energy, having the greatest share of nuclear power in total electricity generation of any country worldwide.
In 2020, nuclear energy accounted for 70.6 percent of the country’s total energy production.
This new strategy flies in the face on Mr Macron’s previous campaign promise to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear energy, which is often seen as being too expensive.
In 2018, he promised to shut down a total of 14 power reactors, in a bid to reduce the share of nuclear in France’s electricity generation mix to 50 percent by 2035.
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France had spent about €735million (£619million) on the project.
This new strategy comes at a difficult time for French energy company EDF, which is currently struggling with debt.
The company is grappling with corrosion problems that have forced multiple old nuclear reactors offline for extended periods and with having to persuade foreign buyers it can deliver projects on time and to budget.
Mr Macron also faced criticism from the Green party in France, who labelled this move as an “election stunt”.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace has also denounced the move, accusing an “opportunist” Mr Macron of “denying democracy”.
Nicolas Nace, in charge of energy transition programmes for Greenpeace France accused Mr Macron of speaking as a candidate up for re-election rather than a president.
He said: “We are talking about a crucial decision engaging France for decades, even centuries if we talk about the waste.”