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France mounts battle for nuclear energy in Europe

Paris persuades 10 EU countries to join a ‘nuclear alliance’

Sarah White and Leila Abboud in Paris, Alice Hancock in Brussels and Guy Chazan in Berlin, 1 March 23,

France is making an aggressive push to promote nuclear power in the EU, seeking to rally allies for battles to come in a stand-off with Germany over the bloc’s energy policy. Paris on Tuesday persuaded 10 countries, including Hungary and Bulgaria, to join a “nuclear alliance” calling on Brussels to do more to back atomic energy, a move they argued would help meet climate goals while protecting the EU’s energy independence.

The establishment of the pro-nuclear group at a meeting in Stockholm, comes as France lobbies for concessions from the EU’s ambitious renewable power goals to obtain what would effectively be carve-outs for its nuclear industry, the mainstay of its electricity production. That has opened a rift with Germany and left other member states wondering if they will be forced to pick sides.

The disagreements are bleeding into a host of EU energy reforms, from a planned overhaul of electricity markets to how to promote hydrogen energy and renewables. It also reflects how Germany and France have had trouble forging consensus on a range of issues since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rattled the EU’s economic and political order.

French energy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said she had a “productive discussion” with her German counterpart at the meeting of EU energy ministers in Stockholm on Tuesday, but the pair did not resolve their differences. “We do not want nuclear to be discriminated against,” she said.

Some EU countries are questioning why French president Emmanuel Macron’s government is pushing its agenda so hard given it risks reopening legislative battles on energy issues that had already been resolved. “

It is total war from everywhere [on the nuclear issue],” said one senior EU diplomat outside of the Franco-German nucleus, as several described French efforts to get “low carbon” — a byword for atomic power — into a number of draft regulations in recent months.

Another said the issue had “become a spoiler in every discussion”, when France had agreed last year to a broad outline of a renewable energy agenda without insisting on nuclear carve-outs.

The meeting hastily arranged by Paris was met with a degree of bewilderment by other EU states. Belgium, which recently extended the life of two reactors, was not invited, while Sweden, which has a modest atomic energy sector, declined to join. The Netherlands only signed up on condition that a paragraph in the joint statement linking nuclear power to renewables targets was deleted, people close to the talks said.


March 2, 2023 - Posted by | France, politics international

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