France to Adopt Law to Cut Nuclear Dependency, Carbon Emissions

French lawmakers will adopt a long-delayed energy law on Wednesday to reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear reactors and lower carbon emissions by cutting the use of fossil fuels.

“It’s the most advanced law of its kind among industrial countries,” Environment Minister Segolene Royal said in an interview on France 2 Wednesday. The government wants to create jobs by insulating buildings and developing renewable energies, she said.

The sweeping energy transition law reflects a campaign pledge more than three years ago by President Francois Hollande to cut nuclear energy in favor of renewables. The law was delayed by industry resistance and ministerial changes, while the opposition-led Senate watered down nuclear provisions.

The law, scheduled to be passed by parliament later today, stipulates that nuclear reactors should provide half of all power output “by around” 2025, according to a version on the National Assembly’s website. Earlier drafts of the law had a firm deadline of 2025 for bringing down reliance from the current three-quarters of total output, the highest proportion of any country in the world.

The law also caps nuclear capacity at today’s 63.2 gigawatts, which means that when Electricite de France SA starts up a reactor under construction at Flamanville in Normandy, two smaller generators will have to be shut. Royal said today in the television interview that EDF’s oldest reactors at Fessenheim will be closed.

Unrealistic Date

The 2025 deadline is “unrealistic” and would mean closing 20 out of EDF’s 58 existing reactors, opposition Senator Jean-Claude Lenoir told lawmakers earlier this year.

The focus on nuclear has eclipsed wide-ranging provisions contained in the law on carbon emissions, fossil fuels, energy efficiency of buildings and recycling, including a ban from January on stores handing out plastic bags.

France, host of a climate conference at the end of the year, will have to raise the proportion of renewable energy to 23 percent of total consumption by 2020 and 32 percent by 2030 when renewables have to make up 40 percent of power output, the law states.

France will also have to lower carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 and by a factor of four by 2050. The law stipulates a lowering of energy consumption by a fifth by 2030 and half by 2050 as well as reducing “primary” fossil fuel consumption by 30 percent in 2030 compared with 2012.

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 ahead of the 2012 election when the Socialists were keen to attract Green Party allies who are against atomic power.

Last year, 77 percent of French electricity production came 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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