Bloomberg News

Atomic Project Splits French Greens From Socialists Before Poll

November 16, 2011

Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Electricite de France SA should stop building its EPR atomic reactor in Normandy, according to France’s green party, a position rejected by the Socialists, potential allies in next year’s presidential election.

“We need to change our energy model and so we can’t have a project that will keep us stuck to nuclear for 60 years,” Eva Joly, candidate for the Europe Ecologie-Les Verts party, said on France Inter radio today. The EPR is “dangerous” and an industrial and financial “catastrophe.”

Joly is in talks with the opposition Socialist Party on a possible alliance for the May elections. What to do about EDF’s EPR, a 1,650-megawatt reactor being built at Flamanville in Normandy at a cost of about 6 billion euros ($8.1 billion), is a point of contention between the parties.

The greens want a complete halt of the country’s nuclear program, which includes 58 reactors providing more than three quarters of France’s power, while Socialist candidate Francois Hollande has called for the lowering of France’s dependence on atomic power to 50 percent by 2025.

“It’s out of the question,” to stop construction of the EPR, Socialist lawmaker Manual Valls said today on RTL radio. “We need the EPR” for our energy transition.

Debate in France has intensified in recent weeks 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 including EDF have predicted that extra costs and higher power prices would result from Hollande’s proposal.

Possible Deal

Both Joly and Valls said a deal between the Greens and the Socialists is possible, although they could maintain areas of disagreement such as the future of the EPR.

The Socialists want an agreement with the Greens “but not to the detriment of Francois Hollande’s convictions,” Valls said in the RTL interview.

“These are negotiations between parties,” Joly said. “I think we could find an area of understanding with them.”

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.

Hollande said in a television interview last week he doesn’t favor halting construction of the EPR at Flamanville.

--Editors: Will Kennedy, Tony Barrett

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net


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