French Primary Reflects a Shift on Nuclear Power via The Wall Street Journal


PARIS—When he goes to vote in Sunday’s Socialist Party primaries, Christian Bataille will vote against one of his principles: the pro-nuclear Socialist lawmaker will support a French presidential hopeful who has vowed to phase out atomic power.

“It’s a bit contradictory,” said Mr. Bataille, who has headed a French parliamentary commission on nuclear energy. “But I am a long-term supporter of a candidate who has recently been swayed by antinuclear campaigners.”

Like many in his own party Mr. Bataille is struggling with a new reality in France: the end of a 40-year political consensus on the merits of nuclear power.

For the first time, come Sunday’s vote—which will determine the Socialist Party’s candidate for the 2012 French presidential elections—the French people will choose between two Socialist Party politicians who both question France’s unflinching attachment to nuclear energy.

The Socialist Party’s atomic shift could turn into a key issue during next spring’s presidential election, highlighting the profound effect that the March nuclear disaster in Japan has had on the perception of nuclear power around the world.

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