Although secretary of state for industry Nicole Fontaine has said that "no decision has yet been made," several sources among the government have confirmed that the agenda of the French government is to relaunch the nuclear industry with the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), the next generation of nuclear reactors developed by Framatome ANP.
Announcing the plan for the debate, Fontaine said: "We must soon make important choices, define the energy mix for the next 30 years in setting our sights on sustainable development, at a European and at a global level…This will include thought as to the role and the future of nuclear, of taking decisions such as those concerning the EPR, and to define the role of renewables in the production of electricity, in thermal uses and transport."
The energy debate is aimed at influencing a draft law to be issued this autumn on France's energy policy guidelines beyond 2030. The country has new challenges to tackle since the 1970s, when the French government gave its go-ahead for a wide nuclear programme. Current issues include: environment (from greenhouse gases to maritime oil pollution); energy market liberalisation; and global geopolitical instability.
The debate will be organised by the ministry of economy, finance and industry, in close collaboration with other ministries concerned: ecology and sustainable development, land planning, transport, housing, tourism and sea, and youth, education and research. It will last from 18 March to late May. Six forums will be held: in Paris (the opening and the wrap up events), and in Strasbourg (daily use of energy), Rennes (energy and businesses), Bordeaux (fossil fuels) and Nice (other energy resources).