Since the creation of its first nuclear power plants in the 1950s, France has relied mainly on this energy for its energy creation. However, although strong, the French nuclear sector is being impacted by the current sanitary crisis.
Nowadays, nuclear energy is still essential for the French economy. Nuclear power provides more than 70% of France’s electricity production, which itself accounts for 27% of the country’s final energy consumption. France’s nuclear industry brings together 2,500 companies that employ around 220,000 people in the country. This solid sector, generating a turnover of €50 billion, has not been spared from the impacts of the Covid-19 health crisis.
Following the French government’s latest announcements on new sanitary regulations, the French Minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Barbara Pompile, focused specifically on the nuclear sector situation. Indeed, the maintenance operations agenda of the French nuclear power plant, already disrupted by the first lockdown in March, is once again severely impacted by this second lockdown. As a result, the availability of the French nuclear fleet is reduced, and the use of coal is then necessary to ensure the production of electricity during this winter.
Although historically and economically very solid, the French nuclear sector has been impacted by the current health crisis and seems to reveal some weaknesses and fragilities.
The French government determined to support its nuclear industry:
The French government seems determined to support the nuclear sector, reflecting the economic recovery plan presented last September. Thus, within the €30 billion envelope devoted to ecology, a €470 million budget is directly dedicated to the nuclear sector. €100 million are directly intended to provide economic support to the players in this market, €200 million are devoted to the development of technological and scientific skills, and €170 million are directly dedicated to research on smaller, safer and more efficient modular reactors.
Although relatively old, the nuclear sector remains a nest of research and innovations still highly active.
However, the difficulty faced by the nuclear sector during this health crisis could be the starting point for a definitive transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies. The investments planned within the economic recovery plan for green energies are thus much higher than those for nuclear power, and innovations in these fields are flourishing day after day. Although France remains committed to nuclear power in the short and medium term, renewable energies now stand out as the energy solution for the long term.
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