Accelerating nuclear power: five points to remember from the final version of the law

The nuclear acceleration bill has created many debates between the National Assembly and the Senate. The joint committee reached a compromise on the text. In particular, France’s limit on installed nuclear capacity has been lifted.

On Thursday, May 4, the joint committee examined the draft law on the acceleration of nuclear power. Composed of seven deputies and seven senators, the joint committee reached a compromise on the text, which provoked numerous debates in Parliament but also within the CNDP (French national public debate commission), which was then in the middle of work on the program to build six EPR2 in France, including a first pair at Penly.

1) No nuclear ceiling or floor

The commission confirmed that the floor and ceiling for nuclear power had been removed. In concrete terms, this means that the objective of reducing the share of nuclear power to 50% has been abandoned, as has the ceiling of 63.2 GW of installed nuclear capacity (preliminary articles). These were inherited from the 2015 Energy Transition Law.

2) Artificialization of the soil supported by the country

The artificialization of soils resulting from constructing a nuclear reactor will not be considered to assess the achievement of local and regional objectives. It will be counted at the national level so that the project does not only impact the commune concerned. A law must be adopted before January 1, 2024, to specify the conditions (Article 3). This was the main disagreement between the deputies and the senators during the joint committee.

3) The ASN-IRSN merger postponed

A very controversial subject, the project to merge certain activities of The French Institute for Radiological Protection and
Reactor Safety (IRSN) within the ASN, rejected by Parliament, was not reintroduced during the joint committee. Parliamentarians even wished to delete all references to the reorganization of ASN and IRSN. At the same time, the joint committee rewrote Article 11b, which mentioned a dual safety model (expertise and decision). This should allow the ASN to recruit contract staff as needed to meet its growing staffing needs. In addition, a report analyses the consequences of an ASN-IRSN merger. It has been entrusted to the Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of
Scientific and Technological Choices(Opecst).

4) Tougher measures in case of intrusion into the power plants

The joint committee also reintroduced a Senate proposal that allows the judge to prohibit a legal person from receiving public aid in the event of intrusion into a nuclear facility (Basic Nuclear Facility or INB) (Article 13).

5) Deletion of the “Greenpeace amendment

The joint committee also deleted the two articles added by the amendment presented by the deputy Battistel, drawn up with Greenpeace. These articles concerned the creation of a “parliamentary delegation for civil nuclear energy” (Article 14) and the request for a report on the financing of “independent expertise” (Article 16).

The next steps in the parliamentary process will see the bill submitted to a final vote of parliamentarians on May 9 and 16. If the law is adopted, the text, part of the ambition to launch a construction program for six EPR2, will accelerate the procedures that precede authorization to create the plant without altering safety, environmental authorizations, or the quality of public inquiries. The first EPR2 in France, if Parliament approves this program, should be commissioned in Penly (Seine-Maritime) by 2035-2037. The text of the joint committee is available in French here.

Thomas Jaquemet (Sfen)

Photo by Joël SAGET / AFP