Nuclear: kick-off in the Assembly, controversy over the reform of security

The National Assembly began fiery debates on Monday on the nuclear revival bill

Nuclear: kick-off in the Assembly, controversy over the reform of security

The National Assembly began fiery debates on Monday on the nuclear revival bill. Hundreds of people demonstrated near the Palais Bourbon to protest against the reform of the security of this sensitive sector.

With this text which aims to facilitate the construction of six new EPR reactors by 2035, it is "the thread of the greatest French industrial adventure since the 1970s with which we are reconnecting", affirmed the Minister of Transition. energy Agnès Pannier-Runacher.

Against fossil fuels, "accelerating renewable energies means being an environmentalist. Reviving our nuclear industry means being an environmentalist," she said at the kick-off.

480 amendments are still on the program until Thursday. In a news still agitated by the pension reform, the government is counting on the traditional support of the right for the atom for an adoption without too many difficulties at first reading, after the very broad vote of the Senate at the end of January.

The leader of the LR deputies Olivier Marleix supports this relaunch of nuclear power, but is "wary of new converts" and criticizes "the spectacular spin" of Emmanuel Macron.

Fierce opponents of atomic energy, EELV and LFI are relying on two recent events to scrap against this law: the "significant" crack revealed in the piping of a reactor at the Penly power station (Seine-Maritime), and the announced disappearance of the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), technical expert, that the executive wants to merge into the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), the policeman of the power stations.

Added by a simple government amendment, adopted in committee, this security reform aroused the ire of the IRSN unions as well as the ASN, the left, and protests even in the majority.

The inter-union of the Institute organized a new day of strike Monday and a demonstration near the Assembly. Hundreds of employees marched to the Invalides, with slogans like "IRSN dismantled, nuclear safety sold off".

This "merger" project is "incomprehensible", also denounce the deputies of the left-wing coalition Nupes, who deem "essential to maintain independence between the function of regulator (ASN) and that of expertise (IRSN)".

“This bill does not touch a single comma of our nuclear safety procedures,” replies Agnès Pannier-Runacher. As for Penly, "discovering thermal fatigue cracks on a pipe is a little as commonplace as discovering that equipment is aging", she judges. "I remind you that these parts are replaced".

Among the macronists, the rapporteur Maud Bregeon, former EDF, distinguishes the "legitimate questions" on the IRSN from the arguments used to "gun down the sector" by "ideology".

In the name of "sovereignty" and "carbon neutrality", "real environmentalists today are pro-nuclear", she attacked, while adherence to the atom has clearly gained ground in the polls, in the midst of an energy crisis.

Limited to new facilities located on or near existing nuclear sites, the bill aims to simplify administrative procedures to reduce construction times.

The next two EPRs should be located in Penly, followed by two others in Gravelines (North), with the objective of 2027 for "the first pour of concrete", and "2035-2037" for commissioning, according to the government.

The Assembly rejected a motion of global rejection of the text carried by the PS. Then validated a controversial addition from the Senate: the removal of the 50% cap on the share of nuclear energy in the French electricity mix by 2035.

Several deputies, including former minister Barbara Pompili, criticized this deletion, which speeds up the future multi-annual energy programming law, expected at best this summer.

But the government wants "neither ceiling nor floor" on the subject, while nuclear energy represents around 70% of electricity production usually, but only 63% in 2022 due to shutdowns for corrosion.

After a technical text on renewables adopted with the support of socialist deputies, the government is turning to the right for that on nuclear power, which elected officials LR and RN look on with a good eye.

“Finally, the nuclear industry will regain a little consideration”, underlined Marine Le Pen, while judging the text “very insufficient”.

On the left, only the Communists are openly in favor of nuclear power, but they abstained in the Senate on this bill.


03/14/2023 00:14:06 -         Paris (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP