Electricite de France SA Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio said a French exit from nuclear energy would cost 400 billion euros ($544 billion) and threaten one million jobs.
The spending would be needed to develop alternative power sources while 90 percent of the lost jobs would be in France’s atomic industry and at power-hungry factories, Proglio was quoted as saying in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper today. Spokeswoman Carole Trivi confirmed the figures.
Debate in France intensified this week about the consequences of a shutdown of EDF’s existing 58 nuclear reactors in the coming decades. French Industry Minister Eric Besson and the power industry lobby predicted that extra costs and higher prices would result from a proposal by opposition Socialist Party presidential candidate Francois Hollande to lower the country’s dependence on atomic power. French presidential elections will be held in May.
France has criticized Germany’s decision to phase out atomic power by 2022 after Japan’s nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who decided in March to shut more than 25 percent of the country’s atomic capacity, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has reiterated support for more nuclear investment.
Atomic energy provides more than 75 percent of France’s electricity, the highest proportion in the world. Hollande has said he favors a reduction of that number to 50 percent by 2025.
No Construction Halt
Hollande said this week in a television interview he doesn’t favor halting construction of EDF’s latest-generation EPR in Flamanville in Normandy. The 6 billion-euro reactor, scheduled to start selling power in 2016, is a showcase for EDF to export the model to other countries, including China where two are under construction.
Bringing France’s dependence on nuclear down to 50 percent by 2030 would cost 60 billion euros in additional investment on top of the 322 billion euros needed if dependence is 70 percent, the country’s power utilities’ lobby Union Francaise de l’Electricite said two days ago.
The move would raise power prices for households and companies and make France more reliant on imports, said the group, whose members include EDF and GDF Suez (GSZ) SA, Belgium’s nuclear operator.
Le Monde Article
Separately, EDF’s Trivi confirmed the utility has written a letter to France’s stock market regulator asking for an investigation into trading of the shares Oct. 28 following publication of an article in Le Monde.
The article said that the Socialist Party and the Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts environmental party are close to reaching an agreement ahead of the presidential elections on a common platform that about a dozen of the country’s oldest reactors would be closed and the Flamanville EPR could be stopped.
EDF closed down 5.5 percent on that day amid trading volumes around double the usual daily average, Trivi said.
“Francois Hollande is not negotiating with the Greens,”Michel Sapin, a lawmaker and adviser to Hollande, said today at press conference. “We must cut the share of electricity produced by nuclear energy. France is the only country to produce so much of its energy from this only source. We must put an end to this anomaly.”