French Energy Law to Lower Atomic Power Reliance, PM Valls Says

By Tara Patel
April 08, 2014 10:59 AM EDT 13 Comments

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls vowed to pursue plans to curb the nation’s reliance on nuclear power with an energy law to be unveiled by the end of June.

“The law that will be discussed in depth by parliament will be the text for our new energy policy for France for the future,” Valls said today in a policy speech to parliament. It will be presented to cabinet “before the summer.”

Valls reiterated President Francois Hollande’s plan to cut dependence on atomic power to half of all output by 2025 from about three-quarters now. State-run Electricite de France SA operates the country’s 58 nuclear reactors.

The law to shift toward renewables and away from nuclear is already about a year behind schedule. Valls was named head of the government last week after Hollande’s Socialist Party was trounced in local elections. Segolene Royal became environment and energy minister, the fourth since Hollande was elected in May 2012.

“The climate is probably the area where regulation is most needed,” Valls said. “It’s a major challenge for the planet and we will respond with a real low-carbon strategy.”

France will aim to cut use of fossil fuels by 30 percent and carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, he said.

The nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 prompted France’s neighbors Germany and Italy to turn their backs on atomic energy and raised questions at home about the energy source. The atomic regulator ordered EDF to carry out safety measures costing an estimated 10 billion euros ($14 billion) to make reactors safer and Hollande planned to close EDF’s oldest plant at Fessenheim by the end of 2016.

Ministry officials estimated last month in testimony to a parliamentary commission that as many as 20 reactors may have to be halted by 2025 to meet Hollande’s pledge to reduce dependence on nuclear power and boost renewables.

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