France will invest €1 billion ($1.4billion) in its nuclear power programme, bucking the post-Fukushima trend away from nuclear energy.
Announcing the energy funding package – which also commits a further €1.35 billion to renewables – French president Nicholas Sarkozy declared there is “no alternative to nuclear energy today”.
The €1 billion will fund ‘fourth generation’ nuclear development and research into nuclear safety, the president said on Monday.
The decision to boost nuclear power in France, which gets most of its energy from nuclear sources, goes against that of others in the region. Germany recently announced the phased shutdown of all its nuclear power stations by 2022, while earlier this month, Italian voters rejected a government push to reintroduce nuclear power.
Meanwhile, last week, the UK government also maintained its commitment to nuclear, confirming a string of sites for possible new nuclear builds.
The UK’s national policy statements on energy, released last Thursday, said renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage “will all have a part to play in delivering the UK’s decarbonisation objectives”, and confirmed eight sites around the UK as suitable for building new nuclear stations by 2025.
The sites are: Bradwell in Essex; Hartlepool in Hartlepool borough; Heysham in Lancashire; Hinkley Point in Somerset; Oldbury in South Gloucester.; Sellafield in Cumbria; Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey. There are existing or disused nuclear plants at all these sites.
The statements, which are to be debated in Parliament, include a commitment for an additional 33GW of renewable energy capacity, while the government said more than £100 billion ($160 billion) will be required to replace around 25% of the UK’s generating capacity, due to close by 2020.
Environmental NGOs expressed disappointment with the UK’s decision to pursue further nuclear developments with Friends of the Earth calling it “an expensive gamble”.
UK energy statements balance demand and targets
However, Ben Caldecott, head of European policy at asset manager and adviser Climate Change Capital in London, said the government has struck a fair balance between meeting energy demands and achieving emissions targets.
“I prefer renewable energy to nuclear power, but the fact of the matter is that if you didn’t replace any existing nuclear power stations, decarbonising the electricity sector would be that much harder. And that’s the challenge that Germany will be facing,” he told Environmental Finance.
The statements came out the same day Sam Laidlaw, CEO of UK utility Centrica, told an energy summit London that the UK’s first new nuclear plant will be delayed.
“There will be a delay, we just don't know by how much," he said of the plant due to come online in 2018.
By. Charlotte Dudley
Source: Environmental Finance