France pushes nuclear power for oil-hungry EU

24th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Jan 24, 2006 (AFP) - France proposed Tuesday a radical shake-up of Europe's energy policies, stressing the need of nuclear power amid growing concern at dependence on oil and gas highlighted by recent Russian supply cuts.

BRUSSELS, Jan 24, 2006 (AFP) - France proposed Tuesday a radical shake-up of Europe's energy policies, stressing the need of nuclear power amid growing concern at dependence on oil and gas highlighted by recent Russian supply cuts.

Finance Minister Thierry Breton also said the European Union must boost investment in greener alternative sources such as wind power, while stressing the need for more energy-saving initiatives.

"European energy policy must ... take account of two essential elements at an international level: the increasingly tense situation worldwide between oil and natural gas supply and demand (and) climate change," he said.

"The three goals of any responsible energy policy ... are security of supply, consideration for environmental impacts, both local and global, and competitiveness," Breton told his EU counterparts in Brussels.

In an 18-page document setting out the French plans, Breton cited International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that global energy consumption is due to surge by 60 percent by 2030.

Fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — will still provide 85 percent of the world's energy, according to IEA figures.

Europe's dependence on gas has come under the spotlight in recent weeks, initially following a standoff between Russia and Ukraine which saw supplies temporarily reduced to some EU countries.

That case was followed a few days later by a cut in gas to Moldova — like Ukraine an ex-Soviet satellite on the expanded EU's border — and then to Georgia after mystery explosions on two key pipelines at the weekend.

While not referring explicitly to the latest incidents, the French minister said the EU must ensure it is not overly dependent on any one source.

"Guaranteeing the EU's security of supply with a view to sustainable development ... implies diversifying the energy sources and taking advantage of a broader supply spectrum," Breton said.

France is a leading producer of nuclear energy, which currently provides some 34 percent of Europe's elecricity, Breton noted. Nearly all electricity in France is produced by nuclear power and France exports electricity. Other key EU states such as Germany have long opposed atomic power.

While agreeing that each country must decide its own energy policy, he noted that the current level of nuclear power, if produced by fossil fuels, would produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the entire European car fleet.

"Maintaining the current contribution of nuclear power to the European energy mix and preserving Europe's technological and industrial edge in this field are issues of strategic importance for the Union," he said.

Breton also noted that the IEA had concluded that, in its heavy reliance on fossil fuels, "we are on the wrong track."

"Climate change ... could have serious impacts in the near future, through changes to the water cycle and to basic economic activities such as agriculture and energy production," he said.

And he added: "France believes that the challenges to be met are so great that with respect to world energy supply and demand, no technology and no instrument of public policy should be necessarily ruled out."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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