Can the French nuclear industry avoid meltdown? (The Economist – December 12, 2022)

Emmanuel Macron envisions a national nuclear renaissance. First France’s reactors must survive the winter

Nuclear power seems, in some ways, tailor-made for this day and age. It emits next to no carbon. It provides reliable baseload electricity when sun isn’t drenching solar panels or wind isn’t wafting through turbine blades.

And it does not leave its operators hostage to fossil fuels from dictators like Vladimir Putin, who has throttled the supply of Russian natural gas to Europe in response to Western sanctions over his invasion of Ukraine.

With memories of the Fukushima meltdown in Japan 11 years ago fading, countries from Britain to India are considering fission as a critical part of their future energy mix. Even in nuclear-sceptical Germany, which decided to mothball its nuclear reactors in that disaster’s wake, the government felt compelled in October to extend the lifetime of the three remaining ones until April 2023.

If there is one country that should already be enjoying all the benefits of this abundant carbon- and autocrat-free power, it is France. Its fleet of 56 reactors accounts for around 70% of national electricity-generating capacity, the highest share in the world and more than three times the figure in America.

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