France Will Give Citizens a Say in Future Energy Mix, as Government Touts Nuclear

(Bloomberg) -- The French government will give citizens, mayors and non-governmental organizations a say in the country’s strategy to use a mix of nuclear and renewable energy to become carbon neutral by the middle of the century.

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“We’re making decisions by associating all citizens on topics that will define what France’s energy mix will be in the next decades,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at a nuclear waste-treatment plant on Thursday. “There are things that impact your daily life, your landscapes, your economic choices,” such as wind turbines, solar panels and nuclear plants.

The proposal comes as a controversial government draft bill on the country’s energy sovereignty has been put on hold amid concerns that it might be rejected by lawmakers. President Emmanuel Macron’s party and its allies see atomic power as central to the nation’s future plans, but they lack an outright majority. The opposition parties are split between nuclear and renewables.

While France will need wind, solar, hydro power and biomass as well as energy savings to achieve its net zero ambitions, nuclear power will play a “central role,” Le Maire said. That’s because it contributes to the country’s energy security when events like Russia’s war in Ukraine and the tensions in the Middle East disrupt fossil fuel supplies.

“We will open this debate in the coming weeks,” he said at Orano SA’s facility in La Hague, in northwestern France. The aim is to set “collective” targets for decarbonized power production.

As France prepares to commission a new nuclear reactor and plans to build at least six new units to supplement its 56 aging atomic plants, it will prolong the operations at Orano’s La Hague and Melox fuel-treatment and recycling plants beyond 2040, the minister announced Thursday.

The nation will also launch studies to build a new plant to manufacture so-called Mox fuel — a mix of plutonium and uranium — in La Hague, and to build a new waste-treatment facility on the same site by 2045 or 2050.

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