August 30, 2018 / 7:39 AM / 4 months ago

Report for French government backs new nuclear reactors that departed minister had opposed: paper

PARIS (Reuters) - A report commissioned by France’s government proposed building five new nuclear reactors, Les Echos reported on Thursday, two days after Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot resigned and said that progress on goals such as a shift to renewable energy was too slow.

The report, prepared for Hulot and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, examines how to maintain the industrial capacity of a French nuclear sector that slowed reactor construction in the 1990s, the business daily said. Among its proposals is the building of five new EPR reactors starting in 2025.

“Government policy isn’t decided by a report,” Le Maire told Radio Classique when questioned about the Les Echos report on it. Nuclear power is “an asset for France”, he added, mentioning its low greenhouse emissions and costs he described as “competitive”.

Hulot, a former presenter of environmental TV programs and a popular figure in France, resigned on Tuesday during a live interview in a blow to President Emmanual Macron’s already tarnished green credentials.

The resignation has added to political headaches afflicting Macron, whose ratings are at their lowest since his May 2017 election, and may yet prompt a wider government reshuffle.

Hulot said staying put would have “created the illusion” that the government’s environment policy was satisfactory.

In another interview published after his exit by daily Liberation, Hulot made a comment that could have been alluding to the proposals of the report in question. “If I go, there will be three more EPRs in coming years.”

The report, drawn up by a nuclear industry veteran and a former defense official, was submitted for classification as secret, Les Echos also said, citing unnamed sources.

Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Simon Carraud; Editing by Brian Love

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