French Senate adopts nuclear bill at first reading

26 January 2023

The French Senate has adopted at first reading a bill promoting the construction of new nuclear reactors. This included amendments such as removal of the target of reducing the nuclear share of electricity production to 50% by 2035. The nuclear share will now be maintained at "more than 50%" of electricity production by 2050. The Senators also revised a decree which provided for the closure of 12 operating reactors, in addition to two units at Fessenheim NPP. The bill was adopted by 239 votes against 16. The amended text will now be considered by the National Assembly.

The original bill specified that construction of new installations should be at or near existing sites a period limited to 15 years. The Senate increased this to 27 years. The sites will be exempted from planning permission for that period, with compliance monitoring being carried out by the State. The right of expropriation is also relaxed and work on buildings not intended to receive radioactive substances could be started before completion of a public inquiry.

The revised text includes small modular reactors (SMRs) in the possible reactor types to be constructed. "For electricity of nuclear origin, the decarbonisation objective relates to the construction of European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) and small modular reactors by 2050," it reads.

Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said the new provisions will “avoid adding a period of two to three years to the construction of a reactor”. The next two EPRs are expected to be located in Penly (Seine-Maritime), followed by two others in Gravelines (North), according to EDF's plans.

Nuclear currently accounts for almost 75% of France's power production, but former president Francois Hollande's government announced in 2014 that this would be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe and would be limited to 50% of total output by 2025. However, a draft energy and climate bill presented in 2019, delayed the reduction in the nuclear share from 2025 to 2035. In February 2022, President Emmanuel Macron said the operation of all existing reactors should be extended without compromising safety and proposed the construction of six new EPR-2 reactors, with an option for a further eight to follow.

Image: The French Senate (courtesy of

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