Macron goes nuclear in pursuit of green goals

France will start building new nuclear reactors after decades-long pause, President Emmanuel Macron has announced, citing both energy security needs and the promise to reach carbon emission neutrality by mid-century.

“To guarantee France’s energy independence, to guarantee our country’s electricity supply, and to reach our goals – notably carbon neutrality in 2050 – we will for the first time in decades revive the construction of nuclear reactors in our country, and continue to develop renewable energy,” Macron said in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday.

The French president made the announcement after attending last week’s COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, where activists have called for radical changes to energy production in order to stave off the projected rise in global temperatures.

Some 75% of France’s electricity comes from nuclear power, and early in his presidency Macron pledged to lower that to 50% by 2035, also in the name of preserving the environment. Skyrocketing oil and natural gas prices and the mixed performance of wind and solar appear to have changed his mind, however.

Macron’s remark about the reactors was part of a broader speech addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, social policies, and the impending French presidency over the EU.

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