France ready to save nuclear group Areva whoever wins presidency – by Geert De Clercq (Reuters U.S. – January 4, 2017)

PARIS-A government-led rescue of French nuclear group Areva and the wider atomic energy industry may cost the state as much as 10 billion euros ($10.45 billion), but political support is almost certain whoever wins the presidential election in May.

While taxpayers will ultimately pick up the huge bill, the main election contenders – from the Socialists and conservatives to the far-right National Front – broadly back the bailout, which involves splitting up Areva. (AREVA.PA)

On top of its dire financial state, Areva is beset by technical, regulatory and legal problems. But given its importance to a nuclear industry that generates three quarters of France’s electricity and employs 220,000 people, the next government probably has little choice but to stand by the scheme hatched under outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande.

France has a small but fierce anti-nuclear movement and some critics oppose investing billions in extending the life of ageing reactors. Nevertheless, nuclear energy is broadly accepted, even though neighboring Germany has decided to ditch it altogether following the 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant.

“I am convinced that the 21st century will need nuclear,” said conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon. “That is why we must support the industry during this difficult period,” the former prime minister wrote in his manifesto.

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