New EPRs: how the government intends to accelerate nuclear power

While the need for electricity will grow to allow the country to extract itself from fossil fuels, Emmanuel Macron supports the construction of six new-generation EPR reactorswith an option for eight others, and the rise of renewable energies, solar and marine wind first.

As of this Wednesday, a bill to speed up renewables, the deployment of which is glaringly late, must be considered by the Senate. That same day, a text on nuclear power arrives at the Council of Ministers, to be examined in early 2023, at the National Assembly, indicated the Ministry of Energy Transition.

Nuclear is the lowest carbon energy of all the solutions we have

“If we want both to have energy independence, but also to meet our climate objectives, we must replace fossil fuels with low-carbon energies. Today, nuclear energy is the lowest carbon of all the solutions available to us, ”explained Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Friday, at the Chinon power station (Indre-et-Loire).

First EPRs at Penly

Installed on the sites of existing power plants, the future EPRs would be located, for the first two, in Penly (Seine-Maritime), then in Gravelines (North). And if the location of the third pair of reactors is not decided, the Rhone Valley (Bugey or Tricastin) is considered.

” Win time “

The bill presented on Wednesday aims to “save time”, by simplifying administrative procedures: for example, sites would be exempt from planning permission because compliance control would be carried out by state services. “The projects will respond to an imperative reason of major public interest, allowing them to benefit from one of the conditions for granting derogations relating to protected species”, he stipulates. And work on buildings not intended to receive radioactive substances can be carried out before closing the public inquiry.

Commissioning in 2035?

Goal for Emmanuel Macron? Lay the first stone before the end of its mandate in 2027, even if the commissioning of this first EPR could not be done before 2035, or even 2037.

“Insufficient time”, “forced passage”

Consulted obligatorily for opinion, the National Council for Ecological Transition (CNTE), which brings together unions, employers, NGOs, etc., said it regretted the “insufficient time” given to it to decide on this bill. In addition, he pointed out that this text of law “cannot prejudge the conclusions of the public debate”.

Environmental associations, in particular, reacted angrily to the sudden reception of this project. “The forced passage under false pretexts of short-term emergency is not acceptable”, launched Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), deploring “a parody of consultation” and the absence of a study of the impact of nuclear power on “aquatic fauna and the massive mortalities of birds”.

“This bill does not preempt the ongoing consultations, nor the future climate energy laws”, for its part, assured the ministry on Monday. “We want to have the support of the populations and elected officials,” added Agnès Pannier-Runacher.

The French called to speak

From the second half of 2023, parliamentarians will – in fact – have to vote on France’s energy and climate strategy. Until then, the French will be able to express themselves. A public debate on the construction of the six EPRsmandatory for EDF, the project leader, began on October 27 and will last until February 27.

At the same time, another broader consultation on energy is organized by the government until December 31, in particular on line.

These two processes, the summaries of which will be delivered to parliamentarians, could be based on the 2050 scenarios of the network manager TEN and of theAdeme. All of these scenarios include a surge in renewable energies, with a variable share of nuclear (or no nuclear at all, which, however, would require very proactive sobriety measures).

Macron’s turnaround at the end of 2021

In 2015, France, which depends on nuclear power for around 70% of its electricity, decided to diversify its sources of supply by closing 14 of its 58 reactors (two have already closed), before a reversal announced by Emmanuel Macron at the end of 2021 .

New EPRs: how the government intends to accelerate nuclear power