On Wednesday January 27th, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a long-awaited report called “Conditions and requirements for the technical feasibility of a power system with a high share of renewables in France towards 2050”. Yet, that document was given a cold welcome by the French nuclear industry, as behind this somewhat complex title hides a key message: a scenario of 100% renewable energy is “technically possible” in 2060 in France. This implies that the country would potentially no longer need nuclear energy to meet its domestic demand. In 2020, the priority has shifted from nuclear power towards complying with the Paris-agreement goal of being net-zero carbon by 2050. In its pluriannual plan of energy, France gave itself the objective to reduce the share of nuclear power in the energy mix to 50% by 2035. In 2020, the government announced the upcoming closure of 14 nuclear plants to fulfill this objective. The closure of the Fessenheim plant, in June 2020 left a 1,7 GW capacity gap to be compensated for with other sources of power generation. In parallel, the fact that the French utility EDF is progressively losing its know-how in the nuclear field is consensually admitted. The difficulties EDF is facing with the construction of the Flamanville plant – i.e. the misconstructed weldings and excesses in budget – provide a salient illustration of this trend.
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