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, and the development of renewable energies , solar and offshore wind power first.

A bill to speed up renewables, the deployment of which is glaringly late, must be examined from Wednesday by the Senate.

The same day, a text on nuclear power will arrive at the Council of Ministers, to be examined in early 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 energy 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 has not been decided, the Rhône valley (Bugey or Tricastin) is envisaged.

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.

The projects will respond to “an imperative reason of major public interest, allowing them to benefit from one of the conditions for granting exemptions relating to protected species”, he stipulates.

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.

Mandatory consultation for opinion, the National Council for Ecological Transition (CNTE), which brings together trade unions, employers, NGOs … “regretted the insufficient time” which was left to it to decide on this bill.

The CNTE further notes that this text “cannot prejudge the conclusions of the public debate”.

Environmental associations in particular had reacted angrily to the sudden reception of this project.

“The forced passage under false pretexts of short-term emergency is not acceptable”, said Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), deploring “a parody of consultation” and the absence of a study of the impact of nuclear power on “aquatic fauna and the massive mortalities of birds”.

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

“We want to have the support of the people and elected officials,” said the minister in Chinon.

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.

A public debate on the construction of the six EPRs, mandatory for the project leader EDF, began on October 27 and will last until February 27.

At the same time, another broader consultation on energy is organized by the government until December 31, in particular online (concertation-energie.gouv.fr).

These two processes, the summaries of which will be delivered to parliamentarians, 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).

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 Emmanuel Macron at the end of 2021.