Published on Monday February 13 2012 (AEST)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to extend the lifespan of France’s nuclear plants so they can operate beyond 40 years, Industry Minister Eric Besson said in an interview with Europe 1.
A decision to prolong the life of a plant would require approval by nuclear-safety watchdog Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, Besson said. Shutting France’s nuclear plants would increase electricity prices, he said.
Sarkozy on Feb. 9 vowed to keep the Fessenheim nuclear plant in eastern France open in opposition to Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party presidential candidate, who has promised to close the site because of safety concerns.
“The president has decided to ask all the operators to position themselves to be able to prolong the lifespan of our reactors and our nuclear plants beyond 40 years,” Besson said. The decision doesn’t automatically mean an extension because the regulator has the final say, according to the minister.
“It would be a waste to halt our reactors at 40 years,” Besson said. Reducing the share of nuclear in French power generation to 50 percent from 75 percent over 13 years would lift electricity prices by 30 percent to 40 percent, he said.
A nuclear power exit would be “destructive” for French industry because it would “strongly increase” electricity prices and hurt consumer purchasing power, Besson said. “There’s nothing reasonable about it.”