Greenpeace Boycotts French Power Debate Laying Out Energy Policy

Greenpeace will boycott French plans for a six-month national debate on nuclear power intended to lay the groundwork for future energy policy and legislation in June.

The government has shown “extremely negative signals on the environment,” Greenpeace, which campaigns against atomic generation in France, said in a statement. It cited plans to build an airport near Nantes and work being carried out on the Fessenheim nuclear reactor, which has been slated to close.

President Francois Hollande was elected promising to lower dependence on atomic energy to half of all power generated by about 2025 from more than three-quarters now. Government-owned Electricite de France SA plans to strengthen the concrete base of its oldest reactor at Fessenheim after the regulator ordered it to improve safety or shutter the plant by the middle of 2013. Hollande says the facility will be closed at the end of 2016.

“We have lost confidence in the government’s desire for truly open debate and change,” Greenpeace said late yesterday.

The government debate is scheduled to start Nov. 20 and run through May in preparation for legislation in June. The law may determine the spending plans for EDF’s reactors for decades.

Greenpeace criticized the nomination of Anne Lauvergeon, former chief executive officer of reactor builder Areva SA, and previous administrator of the Atomic Energy Commission Pascal Colombani to the commission piloting the debate. It said they’re “representatives of the interests of the nuclear industry.”

Power demand fell 6.8 percent last year to 478.2 terawatt hours, with nuclear output of 421.1 terawatt hours making up 78 percent of the total, according to data from grid operator RTE.

Power generator lobby UFE forecast demand may rise to 555 terawatt-hours to 625 terawatt-hours by 2030, depending on energy savings and economic growth. The increase will be driven partly by demand from electric cars and faster trains.

EDF’s new 1,650-megawatt EPR reactor being constructed in Flamanville, Normandy, is scheduled to begin commercial power output in 2016, the same year Fessenheim will close.

France owns 84 percent of EDF.

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