PARIS (Reuters) – France has yet to decide whether to build new nuclear reactors and could yet pursue a long-term strategy of 100% renewable energy, Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday.
The minister was responding to questions on Europe 1 radio after the CEO of state-controlled power utility EDF <EDF.PA> last week said it is clear France is preparing to build new reactors.
EDF operates all of France’s 58 nuclear reactors, which account for more than 75% of the country’s electricity needs.
“EDF does not determine French energy policy,” Borne said, pointing to France’s previously announced policy on reducing the nuclear power to 50% of the electricity mix by 2035 while increasing the contribution of renewables.
“The decision on new reactors has not been made. There are different scenarios with new nuclear reactors in the mix. We are also looking at a scenario where we have 100% renewables,” Borne said.
Borne also said that President Emmanuel Macron has reiterated that there will be no decision on new reactors until the commissioning of EDF’s Flamanville 3 EPR reactor under construction in the north of France.
Her comments follow a report on the Le Monde website last week, in which Borne and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire were said to have sent a letter to EDF asking the company to prepare plans for the construction of six EPR nuclear reactors over the next 15 years.
The Flamanville 3 reactor – the latest generation of reactor with enhanced safety features put in place after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan – has been plagued by delays, technical problems and cost overruns. It is now expected to start operating in 2023, more than a decade behind schedule.
“What we expect from EDF is an explanation on the cost overruns and delays at Flamanville 3,” Borne added.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by David Goodman)