French Greens hail opposition deal to shut reactors

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France's Greens on Wednesday hailed an opposition deal to campaign to reduce the country's reliance on atomic energy as a significant break with France's staunchly pro-nuclear past.

"This was a real break with the past and will, in the case of a victory for the left and environmentalists, mark a change in France's energy policy," Cecile Duflot, the national secretary of the Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) party, said on Canal Plus television.

The EELV and France's leading opposition Socialist party agreed late Tuesday to a deal that will see them jointly campaign in next year's presidential and parliamentary elections for France to shut down 24 nuclear reactors by 2025.

Under the deal, Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande reaffirmed his commitment to cutting France's reliance on nuclear power from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025.

The Socialists would not agree, however, to back the Greens' demand for an immediate end to construction of a new-generation nuclear reactor at Flamanville in western France, which is scheduled to start producing energy in 2016.

France is the world's most nuclear-dependent country, operates 58 reactors -- most of them built after the oil shocks of the 1970s -- and has been a leading international proponent of atomic energy.

But the country's reliance on nuclear energy has been increasingly called into question since the Japanese atomic disaster at Fukushima in March, which prompted Germany to announce plans to shut all of its reactors by the end of 2022.

The French right has rounded on Hollande over his nuclear policies, saying reducing atomic power production would threaten energy security and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

"(Hollande) paid too high a price for his deal with the Greens and it is the French people who will foot the bill," Budget Minister Valerie Pecresse said after the agreement was announced.

French voters head to the polls in the next six months for presidential and parliamentary elections, with Hollande leading in the opinion polls against incumbent right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy.


© 2011 AFP

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