Royal Seeks Compromise on French Law After Senate Backed Nuclear

French Energy Minister Segolene Royal called for a compromise on a sweeping energy law that senators passed Tuesday with watered-down provisions for reducing the country’s reliance on nuclear reactors.

“I will work towards convergence,” Royal said at a press conference in Paris. “I want nuclear to drop in our energy mix.”

The opposition-led French Senate earlier Tuesday approved a modified version of the law that eliminates a specific timetable for lowering France’s reliance on nuclear energy, a provision that is backed by President Francois Hollande. The Senate also raised a limit on capacity of nuclear reactors operated by Paris-based Electricite de France SA.

A cross-party commission is now charged with finding a compromise on the law, which contains wide-ranging provisions on recycling, energy efficiency of buildings and carbon emissions. Failing this, the version backed by the government and approved by the National Assembly would prevail, Royal said.

The National Assembly’s version of the proposed legislation would cut reliance on nuclear energy to 50 percent of power production by 2025 from about 75 percent now, and cap EDF’s atomic output at the current level.

Senators scrapped the 2025 reference and raised EDF’s nuclear cap by 1.65 gigawatts, allowing the operator to open a new reactor at Flamanville without having to shut two smaller plants.

‘Unrealistic’ Timeframe

The 2025 date is “unrealistic” and would mean closing 20 out of EDF’s 58 existing reactors by then, opposition Senator Jean-Claude Lenoir told lawmakers before the vote.

Royal declined to say whether she would accept the law without the date, nor would she confirm Hollande’s pledge to shut EDF’s oldest reactors at Fessenheim in eastern France.

“I don’t want polemics,” she said. “Maybe a formula will be found” that lawmakers can agree on.

Even without the deadline for nuclear phaseout, another provision of the proposed energy transition law to raise the proportion of renewables to 32 percent of energy consumption by 2030 and 40 percent of power production “means we aren’t far apart,” she said.

While Germany decided to phase out nuclear power following the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, France’s reliance on the energy is greater than any other country, and most voters back an industry that employs an estimated 220,000 people. Hollande’s campaign promises were made when the Socialists were keen to attract Green Party allies who are against atomic power.

France last year got 77 percent of the total electricity it produced from EDF’s nuclear reactors compared with 13 percent from hydro dams, 5 percent from fossil fuels and 3 percent from wind turbines, according to grid operator Reseau de Transport d’Electricite.

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