The French Council of Ministers has approved draft legislation intended to streamline the administrative and bureaucratic processes needed to build new nuclear power plants near, or within, existing sites.
According to the official report on the cabinet meeting, the aim of the bill is to respond to the “urgency of a climate crisis which threatens our ecosystems, our societies, the future of the young generations and, on the other hand, of a crisis of sovereignty and security of energy supply in 2022 following the Ukrainian conflict”. The provision of new nuclear power is described as “imperative” for the climate and for energy independence.
The bill “aims to lay down a framework for accelerating administrative procedures related to to the realisation of future projects for the construction of new nuclear power reactors in France, and thus to shorten the deadlines for carrying out these projects, when they are located in the immediate vicinity or within the perimeter of existing nuclear sites”.
The text also adds that it is not pre-empting the place of nuclear energy in the country’s future energy mix, noting that a consultation on that subject was launched just two weeks ago. It also does not change the existing environmental or nuclear safety authorisation requirements. But it aims to “bring local planning documents into line more quickly” and allow some processes to happen in parallel. It also suggests measures to ensure the necessary land can be taken possession of for “reactor projects recognised as being of public utility”.
It cites the plan to build the two EPR2s in Penly in northern France as it notes “this bill allows the construction of new nuclear reactors by the sea, provided that they are built in the immediate vicinity or inside the perimeter of an existing nuclear power reactor”.
When asked how much time could be saved for new nuclear projects as a result of the draft law – which is due to be submitted to the National Assembly around the turn of the year – government spokesman Olivier Veran said that one must think “in terms of years”, Reuters reported.
Nuclear accounts for almost 75% of France’s power production, but former French president Francois Hollande’s government announced in 2014 that nuclear capacity would be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe and be limited to 50% of France’s total output by 2025. The French Energy Transition for Green Growth Law, adopted in August 2015, did not call for the shutdown of any currently operating power reactors, but it meant EDF would have to close older reactors in order to bring new ones online. However, under a draft energy and climate bill presented in May 2019, France will now delay its planned reduction in the share of nuclear power in its electricity mix to 50% from the current 2025 target to 2035.
In February, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the time was right for a nuclear renaissance in France, saying the operation of all existing reactors should be extended without compromising safety and unveiling a proposed programme for six new EPR2 reactors, with an option for a further eight EPR2 reactors to follow.