After Europe, the OECD. Agnès Pannier Runacher, the Minister for Energy Transition, continues to call out countries that have chosen to relaunch the construction of nuclear power plants. On September 28 and 29, the OECD brought together, under the presidency of France, twenty ministers and around thirty major business leaders, all nuclear stakeholders. “We want to achieve a global consensus, as the work of the IPCC has done, on nuclear power. This is a major asset for energy security and responding to climate challenges,” calls the French minister.
“We need to come out of these two days of meetings with an idea of what the next step will be,” says William Magwood IV, director general of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), emphasizing the urgency of redeveloping this technology. “To achieve carbon neutrality in 2050, nuclear electricity production must be tripled,” adds the head of the NEA. “Nuclear energy is carbon-free and abundant,” adds European Commissioner for Home Affairs Thierry Breton. The objective is to have 150 GW of nuclear capacity installed in Europe by 2050. Everyone also agrees that we must take advantage of an alignment of the planets in favor of nuclear power. The shift in mentalities in its favor has taken place in many countries. Political decisions have been made. All they need is public funding to complete the picture.
“We are going to need renewable energies and nuclear power. Today, 25% of European electricity is nuclear. No one can do without energy that does not depend on the weather,” says Agnès Pannier Runacher, performing a balancing act. On the one hand, she constantly praises the complementarity between renewable energies and nuclear power. On the other hand, it criticizes the policy of countries - notably Germany, without ever naming it - which refuse nuclear power while benefiting from French electricity exports to compensate for the intermittency of solar or wind energy, or worse, which are relaunching their gas and coal power plants.
For Agnès Pannier Runacher, the political stakes are clear. Nuclear power must benefit from the same financial, fiscal and regulatory environment as renewable energies, remaining faithful to its doctrine of “technological neutrality” for low-carbon energies. International entities, Europe and financing banks are thus called upon to in turn finance nuclear programs to help their development and participate in research and innovation in this area.
“We did not wait for this conference to put in place the financing model for new nuclear power,” adds the minister, citing the British example. “Hinkley Point was financed with contracts for difference (CFDs) and for the second reactor, with core assets and CFDs. The subject of financing new nuclear power is not one of them. This is barely 3 billion per year out of the 20 billion that EDF must pay for its fleet. Enedis plans to invest 96 billion in its network to support the development of renewable energies.
The challenge is more human than financial, while most major countries have kept their nuclear programs under wraps for three or four decades. Everything has to be rebuilt, skills, the industrial sector, subcontractors, training... France estimates that nuclear power will have to hire 100,000 people over the decade, but it will be in competition with other countries in the race for talent acquisition. The countdown has started.