France to reduce dependence on nuclear power

Pierret argues for more diversified energy production, stresses continuing role for nuclear

France needs to adopt a more "diversified" and "balanced" approach to energy production, French industry minister Christian Pierret said yesterday in a speech to the national assembly. Mr Pierret argued that "radical changes" to French energy policy were required. It was no longer possible to speak of policies of "all oil" or "all gas," he said. "Nor is it any longer enough to talk of all nuclear". Almost 80% of France's electricity is nuclear generated, and an unlikely national debate over the desirability of nuclear energy has been ignited following Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power. Mr Pierret said that state-owned power firm Electricité de France would look into ways of reducing the country's reliance on nuclear electricity between 2010 and 2020, but that nuclear would continue to provide the majority of energy needs. He insisted that the government would not bow to calls from the green lobby to abandon nuclear power altogether. On the question of renewable energy sources, the minister argued that France should "make space" for alternative methods of power generation. Environmental campaigners Greenpeace said they were unimpressed. The group was particularly critical of the fact that Mr Pierret provided no information on how much the nuclear industry costs the French taxpayer every year. Before the debate the organisation sent a report it had prepared on aid and subsidies to the energy sector to all members of the National Assembly. The document argues that the amount of money spent by the state on research into renewables is equivalent to just "a few percent" of the funds accorded to the nuclear industry.

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