Why nuclear power is coming back

By Julie de la Brosse

Posted yesterday at 5:00 p.m., updated at 7:01 p.m.

We could almost believe ourselves propelled twenty years back, when the sulphurous Anne Lauvergeon, then patron of Areva, proclaimed the “Rebirth Nuclear power and promised sales of EPRs by the dozen. Admittedly, it’s not as flamboyant as it was back then. But for some time now, a little music has been gaining ground in business circles and in Parisian countryside HQs, which contrasts with past recriminations.

In recent months, the terms “strategic industry”, “energy sovereignty” and “security of supply” have in fact supplanted the “fiascos” and “setbacks” of the nuclear industry in the public debate. In July, visiting Polynesia, Emmanuel Macron, cautious on the subject, erected nuclear as a real ” luck “ for the nation. A few weeks later, we learned that the nuclear activities of General Electric, sold by Alstom in 2015 in the midst of the industry’s collapse, could return to the French flag.

No doubt the bitter war that France is currently waging in Brussels to have nuclear power included in the list of European green investments has helped to close ranks around the French nuclear industry. What is certain is that between the pro (Xavier Bertrand, Valérie Pécresse, Eric Zemmour, Marine Le Pen, Arnaud Montebourg) and the anti (Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Yannick Jadot, Anne Hidalgo), the debates of the next election promise to be electric.

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It must be said that in five years the climate has improved appreciably for atomic energy… The cause, of course, is the inexorable rise in global temperatures, and the now growing idea that we will not be able to stay the course. an additional 1.5 ° C by 2050 without nuclear power. “Whether it is the IEA [Agence internationale de l’énergie] or the IPCC [Groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat], all international bodies agree: to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we must electrify our uses, and therefore increase all sources of carbon-free electricity production, including nuclear ”, explains Marc-Antoine Eyl-Mazzega, director of the energy and climate center of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

“Many states are discovering how problematic rising demand for electricity will become in the future”
Jacques Percebois, founder of Creden

Even investors, who had deserted this dying sector, are starting to believe it again. In recent years, they have invested heavily in small modular reactors, the famous SMRs, presented as the future of nuclear power. Among them, the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, has even established himself as one of the most fervent defenders of the atom. “Basically, the idea that dominates today is no longer to oppose nuclear power to solar power and wind power, but to make nuclear the controllable complement essential to the deployment of renewables”, explains Pierre-Louis Brenac, energy consultant at Sia Partners.

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