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Construction site of an EPR reactor in Flamanville in Normandy, 2022: France wants to build significantly more nuclear power plants than planned

Photo: Sarah Meyssonnier / REUTERS

In addition to the six nuclear power plants already planned, France wants to build eight more reactors in the coming years – far more than previously planned. There is a current draft law for this. The construction of eight more nuclear power plants has so far been discussed as an "option" by the government, Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told the newspaper "Tribune Dimanche" on Sunday. A total of 14 reactors are being discussed.

In contrast to Germany, France relies heavily on nuclear energy to replace coal-fired power plants and reduce CO₂ emissions. France wants to reduce the share of fossil fuels in energy consumption from more than 60 percent today to 40 percent in 2035.

EPR-type nuclear power plants planned

According to the Minister of Energy, this goal requires the construction of additional power plants with a total capacity of 2026 gigawatts from 13. This is equivalent to the output of eight EPR reactors, Pannier-Runacher explained, arguing: "The historic nuclear fleet will not last forever."

The EPR reactor model, developed by France, was intended to revive nuclear power after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and provide more power with greater safety. Three reactors are in operation, one in Finland and two in China. However, there were not only problems with the construction in Finland. EPR projects in France and the UK are also experiencing delays and cost explosions.

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The first EPR reactor in France is scheduled to go online for testing in Flamanville in Normandy in mid-2024, 17 years after construction began and at a cost of €12.7 billion, four times as much as originally planned, according to French state-owned energy company EDF.

Under the planned reform of the European electricity market, state subsidies for nuclear power plants will continue to be permitted in the EU in the future. The German government had advocated promoting only renewable energies, but was outvoted. In Germany, the last three nuclear power plants were taken off the grid in April.