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the revival of the nuclear sector divides the candidates

President Emmanuel Macron during a speech on nuclear, wind and solar energy at the GE Steam Power System site, in Belfort, Thursday February 10, 2022.

This time again, the major issue of climate crises and biodiversity will have been reduced to the minimum in the presidential campaign, to the great regret of associations, scientists, but also of a growing number of citizens. With one exception: the subject of energy has occupied an important place in the debates for months and figures prominently in the programmes. Discussions on the future of energy policy have been structured around nuclear power, which still provides almost 70% of the country’s electricity today.

A very clear fracture line emerges. On the one hand, supporters of a revival of the nuclear sector argue that this low-carbon and controllable source of energy is essential to fight against climate change. On the other hand, its detractors highlight issues of safety and waste management in particular and wish to gradually phase out the atom. At the very end of his mandate, President Emmanuel Macron clarified his position by announcing that he wanted to launch the construction of six EPR reactors and study the possibility of building eight others later. Five years earlier, the president insisted on the need to reduce the share of nuclear power in the electricity mix, and the closure of the Fessenheim power station (Haut-Rhin), decided by his predecessor François Hollande, was implemented in 2020. .

The left wants wind power

Like Emmanuel Macron, other candidates on the right (Valérie Pécresse), on the far right (Marine Le Pen, Eric Zemmour, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan), in the center (Jean Lassalle) but also on the left (Fabien Roussel) have taken position for the construction of new reactors, while the most recent in operation in France was commissioned more than twenty years ago.

On the left, on the contrary, the majority of the candidates (Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Yannick Jadot, Anne Hidalgo and Philippe Poutou) still defend an exit from nuclear power, which they want for the most part to be gradual, by 2045 or 2050, as and as the reactors of the current fleet will have to be shut down for reasons related to their aging.

The far-right candidates do not explain how they will manage to guarantee France’s security of supply by depriving themselves of wind and solar power

Corollary to this desire to abandon the atom, these four candidates defend a scenario of 100% renewable electricity production by 2050 and therefore plead for a massive development of wind and solar power. Emmanuel Macron, Valérie Pécresse and Fabien Roussel advocate a mix based on both nuclear and renewable energies, when far-right candidates intend to shut down the wind power industry, even dismantle existing parks, and only push sparingly solar. The latter do not explain how they will manage to guarantee security of supply and the achievement of France’s climate objectives by depriving themselves of these energy sources.

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