France will cut back on nuclear power by shutting down up to 17 aging reactors
Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot says that France may shutter as many as 17 nuclear power reactors by the year 2025. During an interview on RTL radio, Hulot noted that the government of newly-installed Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will continue pursuing a policy of cutting back nuclear’s current 75% share of France’s electricity generation to 50% by 2025.
By Jeremy Bloom
Hulot added: “To meet the target it’s clear enough that you need to close a certain number of reactors. It could be as many as 17 reactors — we’ll have to take a closer look.”
According to France24,
Hulot says the move aims to bring policy into line with a law on renewable energy that aims to reduce French reliance on nuclear power to 50 percent. France currently derives close to 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. The push for diversification comes on the heels of other high-profile stances taken by Hulot and the administration of President Emmanuel Macron, including a ban on new fossil fuel exploration an end to the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040, and a recently announced climate conference to be held on December 12 for the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Paris Accord.
France made a major push into nuclear power after the 1973 oil crisis, and avoided the problems the US had with its polyglot reactor fleet by using a highly-centralized approach and sticking to a single proven reactor design. They currently have 58 reactors that have provided the single largest component of France’s electricity generation.
As France 24 notes, that commitment has driven very low greenhouse gas emissions. “In 2014, France averaged CO2 emissions of 4.32 tons per capita, below the EU average of 6.22 tons per person and well below the US average of 16.22 per person.”
But those nuclear reactors were originally designed with a 40-year working lifespan, and the first ones completed are reaching that age this year. Decommissioning them and dealing with their nuclear fuel is expected to cost on the order of €85 billion.
But the alternatives are even more expensive: extending their lifespan would cost €100 billion, while replacing them with new construction would run €250 billion to €300 billion.
Replacing them with wind and solar, instead, would run approximately €217 billion (by 2035), and come with fewer safety issues, much lower operating costs, and negligible decommissioning charges.