France's long love affair with nuclear energy finally is faltering. On Feb. 2, the government said it will close Electricite de France's $4.7 billion Superphenix breeder reactor. The decision redeemed a campaign promise made by the ruling Socialist Party to win support from environmentalist voters.
The closure marks the beginning of a decisive shift in energy policy. France currently generates 75% of its electricity from subsidized nuclear plants. But the government is moving toward a liberalized electricity market in which nuclear's role will decline sharply. The move will help to cut France's budget deficit and is a precursor to privatizing the EDF state-owned monopoly.