France's Sarkozy Denounces Nuclear Phase-Out

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"Moratorium on new nuclear power plants is 'a choice of the Middle Ages.'"

Platts

Saying that a moratorium on new nuclear power plants is "a choice of the past, of the Middle Ages," French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday reaffirmed his faith in nuclear power and the need to continue France's nuclear program despite the accident at Japan's Fukushima 1, or Daiichi, nuclear power plant.

Sarkozy was speaking to employees of EDF's Gravelines nuclear power plant near Dunkirk on the Channel coast.

Sarkozy said he came to the site to show "France's confidence in you, in [French] nuclear technology and the knowhow of EDF" employees.

"As head of state, I have confidence in the [reactor] fleet's safety. I wasn't elected to call [the fleet] into question, and it will not be called into question," he said.

He said the country would continue to invest in nuclear energy, saying that "if I took the crazy decision to close French nuclear plants, we would have to find Eur45 billion [over $66 billion]" to replace their power output.

"What would become of Frenchmen's buying power if their electricity bills were quadrupled" by a nuclear phase-out, he asked.

Sarkozy also said there was "no way" he would stop construction of France's first third-generation reactor unit, the 1,650 MW EPR at Flamanville-3, saying it was a "strange idea to halt the plant that will be the safest" in the fleet once it's finished.

Sarkozy added that if the safety check under way on EDF's fleet shows that a unit "poses a problem," that unit would be stopped.

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