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

A bill to accelerate renewables, whose deployment is glaringly late, must also be examined from Wednesday by the Senate.

The same day, a text on nuclear power arrives at the Council of Ministers, to be examined at the beginning of 2023, first in the National Assembly, indicated the Ministry of Energy Transition.

“If we want both to have energy independence but also to meet our climate objectives, we must replace fossil fuels with low carbon energies. Nuclear power is today the lowest carbon energy of all the solutions we have. “, justified on Friday Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher, at the Chinon power plant (Indre-et-Loire).

– “Win time” –

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

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. And work on buildings not intended to receive radioactive substances can be carried out before closing the public inquiry.

Emmanuel Macron could thus lay the first stone before the end of his mandate in 2027, even if the commissioning of this first EPR could not be done before 2035 or even 2037.

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

Mandatory consultation for opinion, the National Council for Ecological Transition (CNTE), which brings together unions, employers, and NGOs, “regretted the insufficient time” given to it to decide on this bill. The CNTE further notes that this text “cannot prejudge the conclusions of the public debate”.

This bill “does not preempt the ongoing consultations or the future climate energy laws which will decide” in fine, assured the ministry on Monday.

Parliamentarians will in fact have to vote from the second half of 2023 on France’s energy and climate strategy.

Until then, the French will be able to express themselves, during a public debate on the construction of the six EPRs, and another broader consultation on energy, organized by the government until December 31, in particular online (concertation-energie.gouv.fr).

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