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France Doubles Down on Nuclear Power

As other countries begin nuclear phase-out, Sarkozy announces new round of nuclear funding

2 min read
France Doubles Down on Nuclear Power

Special Report: Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Power

Editor's Note: This is part of IEEE Spectrum's ongoing coverage of Japan's earthquake and nuclear emergency.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced a new investment of 1 billion euros (US $1.4 billion) for nuclear power on Monday, bucking the European trend that has seen other countries move away from nukes in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

France gets about three-quarters of its electricity from 58 nuclear reactors, a bigger proportion than any other country in the world. President Sarkozy told reporters on Monday that "there is no alternative to nuclear energy today."

Of course, the billion-euro investment--which will be accompanied by a further 1.3 billion euros ($1.9 billion) invested in renewable energy--is little more than a drop in the bucket when it comes to expanding nuclear power. Reactor costs run into the multiple billions, and with a new increased focus on safety after Fukushima, those costs could rise even further. The European Union's existing plants are all undergoing additional safety testing after Japan's earthquake and tsunami highlighted some of the risks.

And safety testing aside, much of Europe is taking the opposite tack from France and moving away from nuclear power. Germany has plans to shutter all of its reactors by 2022, and Switzerland, which gets almost 40 percent of its power from five nuclear reactors, will shut all of them down at the end of the reactor lifespans. A recent referendum in Italy showed that 94 percent of voters were against plans to resume a nuclear power program.

In spite of the reactions around the world to Japan's nuclear crisis, France obviously sees little upside to shelving its own nuclear power infrastructure. According to Sarkozy, putting a hold on nuclear power after Fukushima "makes no sense."

(Image via Toucanradio/Flickr)

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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