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Besson Says France Was Right to Opt for Nuclear Energy

France will put all 58 of its nuclear reactors through safety checks following explosions at a Japanese plant, according to French Energy Minister Eric Besson, who defended atomic energy at a parliamentary commission.

“France has to learn as much as possible from this catastrophe,” Besson told a hearing today in Paris. The country was right to opt for nuclear power because it provides energy independence, less expensive electricity and lower greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

French reactors will get safety reviews, including their ability to withstand earthquakes and floods, he said. Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power generator, operates the country’s nuclear reactors, which provide more than 75 percent of domestic power. EDF is also developing a new reactor in Normandy and has plans for one or two more in France, as well as plants in the U.K. and Italy.

The nuclear safety checks for French reactors will be “transparent and understandable” in determining what types of “stress” reactors can withstand, French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told the same commission. The French tests will be in line with those to be carried out in other European countries, she said.

“The risk of earthquakes is taken very seriously in France,” said Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, France’s nuclear safety watchdog. The risk is considered “moderate.”

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