Let’s Get Political: Nuclear Energy

By December 12, 2018 No Comments

By The political associations, Les Républicains and Génération.s

France is a nuclear state, in both nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. On November 27 of this year, Emmanuel Macron announced that by 2035, 14 nuclear reactors would be run down and that nuclear energy would only represent 50% of total energy production. This follows the goals set by the Law on Energy Transition from 2015, despite slightly deviating from them. The party organizations of Les Républicains (LR) and Géneration.s (G.s) on campus share their thoughts on the issue.

Les Républicains’ take on the issue:

In politics, realism requires a certain amount of courage. Unfortunately, the environmental policy of the left has often adopted ideologies in contradiction with its own convictions. Furthermore, president Emmanuel Macron is currently making the same demagogic mistakes as Francois Hollande did.

On average, a French citizen emits 4.6 tonnes of CO² per year against 8.9 for a German, thanks to a mix of electricity production that is 97% decarbonised, and 77% nuclear. Reducing the share of nuclear energy to 50% would lead to an increase of 100,000 tons of CO² emitted every year in France and this is what must be avoided.

We shall not make the same mistake as Germany when, for electoral reasons, Angela Merkel decided to close all the nuclear power stations and reopened the most polluting coal plants in Europe to deal with the irregularity of the production of renewable energies.

Renewable energies, despite their benefits, are not an alternative as of now. We must not forget that solar and wind energy are extremely intermittent. Solar power plants produce 6 to 10 times less in winter than in summer. And the reality is that we do not know how to store large masses of electricity. This is where research should focus, and nuclear must serve as an interim source until we find the right technical solutions.

Nuclear energy is not perfect – no energy is. It creates toxic waste, but only 10% of it, 150m3 per year in France, remains active for billions of years. This calls for rigorous management, but it is far from impossible.

Nuclear energy is competitive. One MWh costs 168 euros in France against 295 in Germany. Giving up nuclear power would lead to a sharp increase in the price of electricity, which would particularly touch the poorest households. Some have clearly not understood the reasons behind the gilet jaunes movement.

Finally, nuclear energy guarantees independence. How can we negotiate in a position of strength against Putin when, like Poland, Germany or Italy, we depend on its gas in Winter?

Japan, after abandoning nuclear power, had to drastically limit the consumption of electricity. Its carbon footprint exploded (from 8,6 t of CO² per inhabitant to 9,9 t in five years) as well as the price per MWH, and the country fell into complete energetic dependence. Paradoxically, the Japanese government, aware of the situation, is now reopening the plants.

The recent IPCC reports call for a strong and immediate response. Nuclear power does not emit CO² and is not a deadly threat for the planet. Our duty is to act with ambition and pragmatism without sinking into the most counterproductive ideologies.

Géneration.s’ take on the issue:

Nuclear power is often depicted as a clean, riskless and costless source of energy –  a discourse encouraging its use by a highly indebted France. We aim to re-consider these preconceptions, and to put forward a constructive and responsible approach. Our president, who claims to be pragmatic, makes us go an a path that he calls necessary, but to which we are completely opposed. Why? Because it would entail preserving our obsession with nuclear power. Nuclear energy production may not appear that polluting at first, but merely the construction of a nuclear power plant would emit significant amounts of CO². Furthermore, the probability of a nuclear accident is small, but should such a thing happen, its consequences would be cataclysmic.

The current generation has limited options, and thus the choice is simple. The first one would sustain our momentum. We could consider nuclear energy as a future energy source rather than a mark of days gone by. The second would copy Germany, and put a quick end to nuclear power, while risking a shift to an even more polluting energy production such as coal. The third entails a plan to leave fossil energy behind, and it requires a recognition of the advantages of nuclear energy – relative security and energetic independence – while taking its flaws into account.

We opt for the last, and aim to start a gradual nuclear exit – 50% of nuclear power in total electricity consumption by 2025, whereas Macron will only do it by 2035 –  starting with high-risk power plants, and not commit to building any new ones. Particularly, the types of European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) hailed as efficient, are actually money pits that will not resolve the issue of security nor sustainability. Obviously, replacing nuclear reactors by renewable energies is not cost-free. Thus, fair taxation as well as low interest rates for loans guaranteed by the ECB are necessary. But in reality, not replacing the reactors would be even worse, as the maintenance cost of our nuclear infrastructure is estimated by the Court of Auditors to be more than 100 billion euros by 2030.

President Macron’s decision to delay concrete action which would be key to reducing France’s carbon footprint, is symptomatic of our government’s immobility in terms of environmental policy. Génération.s considers the green transition as one of its policy cornerstones – it is both inevitable and crucial. It must be borne by the population as a whole, but in a just way, with each contributing according to their abilities and economic capacity. The preservation of our planet must come with a more equal society. Practically, it must go through the EU, be financed by the ECB, and focus on taxing irresponsible firms, like the banks financing the extraction of fossil fuels.

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