Taking Charge of Energy, Bruno Le Maire Reaffirms the Role of Nuclear Power in France

On January 15, 2024, Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy, who is now also in charge of energy, reaffirmed the importance of nuclear power in decarbonising the French economy and industry through low-carbon electricity. This strategy is exemplified in the region by the symbiosis between the Gravelines nuclear power plant and the ArcelorMittal site in Dunkirk, which is set to invest in, among other things, two electric furnaces.

Confirmed as the head of Bercy within the government of Gabriel Attal, the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty inherited the energy portfolio. On this occasion, Bruno Le Maire reiterated his support for nuclear energy during a visit to the Gravelines plant on January 15, 2024. “It is because energy is at Bercy that we are going to accelerate the climate transition,” Bruno Le Maire notably declared. Indeed, the governmental reorganisation has placed the General Directorate for Energy and Climate (DGEC) under the joint authority of the ministries led by Bruno Le Maire and Christophe Béchu (Minister of Climate). According to Contexte, the competencies and roles of each minister “will be specified in the attribution decrees expected within a few days.”

Bruno Le Maire visited the ArcelorMittal site in Dunkirk, where the State is committed to transforming the steel industry site. A transformation to reduce CO2 emissions was made possible by securing “future electricity supplies with EDF,” ArcelorMittal announced in a statement [1].

Nuclear Power, Industry, and Electrification of Applications

On December 13, 2023, the Ministry of Economy presented the ecological transition contracts signed by the major French industrial companies that are the largest CO2 emitters. Fifty sites are thus identified, representing 55% of industrial emissions in France and 18% of the country’s total emissions [2]. Among the signatories is the ArcelorMittal steel site in Dunkirk, whose decarbonisation project aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 35% by 2030, in line with the roadmap of the “Mines and Metallurgy” sector [3].

To achieve this, the industrialist is counting on increasing steel recycling, carbon capture systems (CCS and CCU), and finally, on constructing a so-called “direct reduction of iron” unit and two electric arc furnaces. “Until now, the operation of reducing ore has been carried out in the blast furnace, with coal as the reducing agent,” the industrialist explains. The direct reduction of iron (DRI) unit will allow the transition from coal to gas and, in the longer term, to hydrogen. Two electric furnaces will complement it.

These facilities will gradually replace two of the three blast furnaces at the site by 2030. “This major project represents an investment of 1.8 billion euros and will eventually reduce the country’s industrial emissions by nearly 6%,” Bruno Le Maire put into perspective. “ArcelorMittal is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions, and the support of the French government, alongside fruitful discussions with EDF that lead to the securing of competitive electricity supplies, has made this project possible,” praised Éric Niedziela, President of ArcelorMittal France.

As a reminder, the National Low Carbon Strategy (SNBC) aims to increase the share of electricity in final energy consumption from 25% to 55% to achieve carbon neutrality.

Gaïc Le Gros (Sfen)

Photo credit François Lo/PRESTIAFP

[1] https://france.arcelormittal.com/actualites/Bruno-Le-Maire-confirme-le-soutien-de-l-Etat-a-la-decarbonation-d-ArcelorMittal

[2] https://www.entreprises.gouv.fr/fr/publication-contrats-transition-ecologique-50-sites-industriels

[3] https://www.entreprises.gouv.fr/files/files/enjeux/d%C3%A9carbonation/contrat-arcelormittal.pdf