Sunday, April 14, 2024

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France Is Doubling Down On Nuclear Energy

France currently gets 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy today. But over a harsh winter, the country, along with many other members of the EU, had to fire up coal plants to meet energy demands. Thus, on Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron announced six new nuclear reactors.

And that might not be all. If the need necessitates it, an additional eight will be approved for construction. But construction will not begin until 2028 with the first reactor likely to come online in 2035.

What makes this move interesting is that it is a complete reversal for the administration. Previously, they planned to reduce their reliance on nuclear energy, but this move is doing the exact opposite.

However, the new classification the EU is giving nuclear energy may have been the deciding factor.

Why Are They Building So Many Nuclear Reactors?

In the initial statement, President Macron stated that it was due to the rising demand for electricity and preparation to replace the units that currently exist.

Currently, France relies on a fleet of 56 nuclear reactors (the second most after the US’s 93). And right now, 10 of those reactors are down for maintenance. The reactors have aged and time has taken its course.

Thus, it is important to start building a new and revitalize the existing fleet. If not, the energy demand will simply outpace what the country can produce. This would result in a higher reliance on fossil fuel sources.

This would make achieving the country’s climate goals impossible.

Nuclear Energy Is Essential to France

Contributing 70% of the nation’s electricity to nuclear energy means that it would be very difficult to replace it. Yet, the good news is that nuclear is a reliable low-carbon source of energy.

While there are concerns over the water material it produces, it is far easier to manage than the emissions from natural gas or oil.

Over time, it is likely that the total percentage will drop because the energy demand will increase. As a result, more nuclear energy may be produced, but other sources like wind and solar will take up bigger cuts.

It’s also worth pointing out that the new classification of nuclear energy as sustainable, does make it able to receive more investment money.

In fact, there is a good argument to be made that the administration’s reversal of nuclear energy is due to this.

A Nuclear Reactor Is Not A Nuclear Plant

It is worth differentiating between nuclear reactors and nuclear plants.

A nuclear reactor is a key component within a nuclear plant. It is responsible for the nuclear chains that generate the energy the plant produces. Nuclear power plants can have multiple reactors.

For example, I mentioned how the United States currently has 93 reactors. Those reactors are spread across 56 different nuclear plants.

Thus, the announcement of 12 new reactors does not mean 12 new plants. Instead, many will end up as additions to existing facilities, but they may also create a new plant in the process. The announcement left out these details.

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Robert Giaquinto

Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.

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