Montebourg, Accoyer and Chevènement united for the defense of “French nuclear heritage”

The nuclear power plant of Fessenheim (Haut-Rhin), June 26, 2020.

What subject can unite elected Sarkozists, Communist deputies, a former president of the National Assembly and the big bosses? It is to defend the French nuclear industry that about fifty personalities signed, Friday, February 12, the appeal of the Association for the Defense of Nuclear Heritage and the Climate (PNC-France).

The signatories are renewing a French tradition of transpartisan union around the promotion of the atom. There are several figures of the right, such as the former minister and senator Gérard Longuet or the deputy LR Julien Aubert. But also several elected Communists: the president of the PCF deputies, André Chassaigne, or his colleague from Dieppe Sébastien Jumel. Some Socialists, like the deputy for Pyrénées-Atlantiques David Habib, are there, as is the probable candidate for the next presidential election, Arnaud Montebourg.

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The former minister of François Hollande was elected from Saône-et-Loire, where several factories of Framatome are located – in particular that of Creusot, in which Emmanuel Macron visited in December 2020 to extol the strengths of French nuclear power. The former president of the SNCF and then of Airbus, Louis Gallois, as well as the former ministers Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Hubert Védrine complete the list, alongside several scientists – such as the Nobel Prize for chemistry Jean-Marie Lehn.

“What unites us, despite our various sensitivities, is to be convinced of the importance of nuclear power to control greenhouse gas emissions”, explains the former president of the National Assembly, Bernard Accoyer. The aim is to mobilize elected officials from the regions where nuclear installations are located.

Major challenges

The collective castigates the closure of the Fessenheim plant (Haut-Rhin) in 2020 as well as the executive’s nuclear policy. France’s energy roadmap provides for the shutdown of twelve reactors by 2035 as well as electricity production shared 50% between nuclear and renewable energies. “These are not serious hypotheses, and they endanger the nuclear industry”, worries Mr. Accoyer, who has been working on this initiative for several months.

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The government’s desire to wait for the Flamanville (Manche) EPR reactor to be placed on the network before deciding to build new ones is also denounced. This project, which started in 2007, should not be completed before 2023 and will cost 12.4 billion euros according to EDF (19.1 billion, according to the Court of Auditors). “The government has an attitude which suggests that the sector would have no future”, notes Mr. Accoyer.

This call comes at a time when the sector is facing major challenges: obtaining the extension of some of the reactors and convincing the public authorities to start new projects as quickly as possible. The lobbying battle has already been launched, while the Minister for Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, is both EDF’s supervisory minister and a historic opponent of nuclear power. This behind-the-scenes activism risks making it more difficult for him.

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