“France 2030”: the title of the energy and industrial investment plan presented on Tuesday by Emmanuel Macron is much more ambitious than it appears. Only eight years separate the presidential election of April 2022 from the deadline announced for France “to once again become a nation of innovation and research” and win “the battle for independence”. The political calculation is simple to do: a five-year term and a half. A good reason to see in this plan, endowed with 30 billion euros, a possible axis of the outgoing president’s electoral campaign, if he chooses to stand for a second term …
“Small innovative nuclear reactors”
One of the most salient elements of this system concerns nuclear energy, on which France today depends 70% for its daily electricity consumption. One billion euros will be devoted to developing “innovative small-scale nuclear reactors” from 150 to 170 megawatts, unlike the mega-projects favored until then such as the EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) in Flamanville (Manche, France). 1300 megawatts), the cost of which alone is estimated at … 46 billion euros.
Focusing on small reactors, easy to assemble, will make it possible to standardize their production and completely renew the French industrial atomic sector which, in addition to the 58 reactors in service in France, has produced more than 120 operational reactors in France. the world. The United States, China and South Korea are also exploring projects of this type today which will allow, in the future, to market “mini-power plants” that are much less expensive to build.
France’s nuclear asset is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it places Paris in an advantageous position in the race to decarbonise the economy, in line with a recent report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (Unece), based in Geneva, according to which the he atom is a low-carbon energy that has “avoided emissions of 74 gigatonnes of CO2 over the past fifty years, or the equivalent of emissions from the entire planet for two years”. “In many parts of the world, nuclear power is one of the most cost-competitive to generate electricity,” the document continues.
On the other hand, this plan risks, on the other hand, relaunching the accusations of proliferation often addressed to France. Naval Group, the submarine manufacturer recently released by Australia (which was to buy classic submersibles from France) is also a stakeholder in the consortium that will produce these miniaturized reactors.
Semiconductors, the dream of revenge
Another strong point of this plan is the amount of funds allocated to the production of semiconductors and electronic components. Six billion euros will be devoted to developing national production of key components. “We want to be able to double our electronic production by 2030 and build a roadmap towards smaller electronic chips to remain one of the leaders in the field,” said Emmanuel Macron, stressing that France “has lost a significant part of its autonomy on several robotics and digital equipment ”.
The main French player in this field is STMicro, whose factories in the Grenoble region employ nearly 30,000 people. Yesterday, France’s key sector, country of engineers, innovation is now lagging behind in the national economy. The country is now eleventh in the world in the Global Innovation Index published in September.