By Paul Homewood
h/t Hugh Sharman
President Emmanuel Macron, who was already doubling down on the low carbon technology even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dialled up concerns across the continent over energy security, is pushing to have the first in a series of six new reactors up and running by 2035.
The plans, which could be extended by at least another eight reactors, are the linchpin in France’s vision to reduce its net emissions to zero over the next three decades, in line with international agreements to limit the rise in average global temperatures.
In order to stand a chance of turning this vision into reality, the government estimates it needs to find another 100,000 nuclear specialists of all guises, from engineers and project supervisors to boilermakers and electricians, over the coming six years.
Looming large, beyond hurdles with design approvals and financing for the €52bn programme, is an even more basic question — whether France, Europe’s main atomic nation, still has the industrial capacity and people to make the projects happen on a scale it has not contemplated since the 1970s. “The biggest challenge is whether we know how to orchestrate a very large industrial project.
No one really does these in Europe any more. It’s China, India,” says Antoine Armand, a lawmaker in Macron’s Renaissance party who steered a recent parliamentary probe into the state of France’s energy sector.
For others, doubts over when France will be able to deliver are a reason to pursue the rollout of renewable energy in a much greater way in the short term.
“We’re going into this with a sort of forceful optimism saying everything is going to be fine. However, today, there is nothing to guarantee that,” says lawmaker Barbara Pompili, a minister under Macron in his first term, but who has just left his party.