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France’s new-generation nuclear plant delayed again via Tech Explore

by Julien Mivielle, Tom Barfield

Electricity giant EDF on Wednesday announced a further delay and cost overruns for France’s flagship new-generation nuclear plant, in a blow to President Emmanuel Macron’s strategy of making atomic power a cornerstone of energy policy.

EDF said that the Flamanville plant on the Channel coast would not be loaded with fuel until the “second quarter of 2023”, instead of late 2022.

The statement came after Macron announced plans for new reactors to provide low-carbon energy and as France backs classing nuclear as a “green” technology under future EU rules.

Projected costs had increased by another 300 million euros ($340 million) to 12.7 billion euros, EDF said—around four times more than the initial forecast of 3.3 billion euros.

Construction on the new-generation EPR plant began in 2007, and was supposed to be finished in 2012.

In November, Macron had announced that “for the first time in decades, we will restart construction of nuclear reactors in our country”—as well as “developing renewable energy”.

The plans would “guarantee France’s energy independence” and help reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, he added.

But the president, who has yet to officially confirm that he plans to stand for re-election in April, was short on details like where or when the new plants would be built.

The Flamanville overruns were “a fiasco at the French public’s expense”, said Greens presidential candidate Yannick Jadot.

Left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon called the news a “shipwreck for the nuclear sector”—long one of the crown jewels of French industry.

Brussels battle

With 56 reactors providing over 70 percent of France’s electricity, according to EDF, Paris has led the charge for nuclear power to be recognised by the European Union as a green technology eligible for carbon-neutral investment.

Allying with eastern EU member states like Poland and the Czech Republic, the push to include atomic energy in the so-called green “taxonomy” has set it at odds with traditional partner Germany.

Berlin is in the process of shutting all its nuclear plants by the end of this year and Germany’s governing coalition now includes the Green party, rooted in part in opposition to the technology going back to the 1970s.

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has said it would be “absolutely wrong” to include nuclear energy on the list, as it “can lead to devastating environmental catastrophes”.

“We agree to disagree on the issue” with the French, German Europe Minister Anna Luehrmann told AFP last week.

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