France leads nuclear push at COP28

A pledge to advance nuclear construction was signed by France along with 21 other nations on Saturday.

Alfie Shaw December 05 2023

France led a group of 20 countries and signed a pledge to “triple nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050” at COP28 in Dubai on Saturday.

The declaration recognises “the key role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century”, but it is not legally binding.

The declaration states: “Analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows nuclear energy approximately tripling its global installed electrical capacity from 2020 to 2050 in the average 1.5°C scenario.”

Soon after the pledge was announced, French President Emmanuel Macron pronounced that “nuclear energy is back” and said the move to triple production capacities “sends a powerful message to the world”.

“Many developing countries want to invest in small modular reactors [SMRs], which are safe and reliable alternatives to fossil fuels, and a good investment for strategic autonomy,” Macron added.

In November, the European Commission announced that it would establish an Industrial Alliance dedicated to SMRs in early 2024. Romania will be the first country in Europe to have SMR technology as part of its Project Phoenix scheme with the US.

Nuclear power in France is also undergoing something of a renaissance, with the nation recently winning EU subsidies for its existing plants and EDF chief executive Luc Rémont saying his company aims to build roughly one 1.6GW reactor a year.

However, not everyone in France is pleased with this development. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, founder of the far-left party La France Insoumise, said: “Notwithstanding the specific dangers of nuclear power, the idea [of an international declaration] is ridiculous and worthy of someone more concerned with the future of the nuclear industry than with saving humanity.”

Green MEP and EU Parliament Transport Committee President Karima Delli said relying on nuclear power “is a false solution” and would go “against our history, as even the International Energy Agency says it clearly: we have to rely on renewable energy”.

Currently, 70% of French electricity is produced by 56 operable reactors.

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