The acceleration of nuclear power, a technical bill that has become very political


Renaissance deputies Maud Bregeon and Aurore Bergé, at the National Assembly, February 13, 2023.

It was to be an eminently technical text, aimed at simplifying administrative procedures to facilitate the construction of new reactors on the sites of existing power plants. Objective: to gain time to be able to launch the work prior to the “first concrete” of new units before the end of Emmanuel Macron’s second five-year term, in 2027. But since the start of its examination, the nuclear acceleration bill , who arrives at the National Assembly on Monday March 13, has taken a very political turn.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Bringing nuclear to 50% of electricity: the elusive totem

The Senate, before adopting it at first reading on January 24, largely amended it. As part of their Economic Affairs Committee, completed on the night of March 6 to 7, the deputies have, of course, deleted several amendments from the senator (Les Républicains) from the Vosges, Daniel Gremillet, rapporteur for the text. But two of them remain.

First symbolic measure: remove the objective, enshrined in law since 2015 and François Hollande’s five-year term, of reducing the share of nuclear power to 50% of French electricity production (by 2035, and no longer 2025, for a 2019 revision). This share was still 63% in 2022, despite a historically weak year for reactors. A second provision provides for the elimination of the limit set, also since 2015, of 63 gigawatts of power for the French nuclear fleet. In the current state, this limit is the only precise constraint, since the objective of reducing nuclear power to 50% does not relate to any reference value.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers “The decision to reduce nuclear power to 50% of electricity production was more a political choice than a solid economic reflection”

If Senator Gremillet had not issued these two amendments, the deputy for Hauts-de-Seine, Maud Bregeon (Renaissance), rapporteur of the text in the Assembly, would have considered offering them on her own, she explains to the World : “These two deletions make it possible to send a strong political message to assume the revival of nuclear power, we must seize the ball and not apologize for being pro-nuclear. »

Major governance reform

Opponents of the atom criticize the government for not having respected the timetable. Because these amendments anticipate substantive debates rather expected for the second half, in view of the first programming law on energy and climate. “These arrangements (…) have nothing to do with a technical text relating to the acceleration of so-called “administrative” procedures”estimates the environmentalist deputy of Loire-Atlantique Julie Laernoes.

Another reason for tension, the bill now provides for a major reform of safety governance, with the absorption by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), now responsible for control and decision-making, of the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), public institution responsible for expertise and research. The announcement of this completely unexpected merger was made following the February 3 nuclear policy council, ie after the bill had been examined by the Senate. The government then introduced two amendments, adopted in committee, which provide for the extension of ASN’s field of competence and the transfer of IRSN staff employment contracts to ASN.

You have 31.82% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *