France Plans to Rally EU Support for Nuclear Projects

Written by Camilla Jessen

Feb.22 - 2024 10:02 AM CET

Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com
France seeks EU support for a major nuclear energy project to advance the shift away from fossil fuels.

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French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has announced a meeting with pro-nuclear EU countries on March 4. They will discuss initiating a major nuclear energy project, known as the "Important Project of Common Interest" (IPCEI), according to Euractiv.

Le Maire revealed this news in Paris during an event aimed at strengthening nuclear energy cooperation between France and Bulgaria.

"France will put on the negotiating table the idea of creating an Important Project of Common Interest (IPCEI) in the nuclear sector," Le Maire stated.

Introduced in 2014, IPCEIs support strategic projects involving several EU countries, focusing on cutting-edge technology or crucial sectors for the EU's future.

They often receive both public and private funding, with the EU sometimes providing financial assistance.

These projects are special because they can receive funding with less strict state aid rules, approved by the European Commission's antitrust authority.

EU Nuclear Funding Debate Intensifies

However, the funding of nuclear energy with EU money is a contentious issue.

Some countries, like Austria, are strongly against it, arguing that EU budgets shouldn't support nuclear projects.

The discussion about nuclear IPCEIs began following an announcement in early February about the formation of a European Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Industrial Alliance.

Similar initiatives already exist for hydrogen, batteries, and solar energy, with the aim of expanding these sectors across Europe.

The details of nuclear cooperation, potentially including areas like "research infrastructure, fuel cycle, MMR...", are still being determined, according to Le Maire's office.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson mentioned in February the goal to have Europe's first nuclear power plants operational by 2030, with small modular reactors (SMRs) contributing to meeting the EU's 2040 climate targets.

The nuclear alliance meeting is scheduled to take place alongside the Energy Council in Brussels, with energy ministers from all 27 EU countries expected to attend.

Le Maire, who now oversees energy in the French government, will likely attend with his energy and industry minister-delegate, Roland Lescourt.

Last November, 12 EU member states urged the European Commission to establish an industrial union for small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).

These smaller reactors could be more widely utilized and are part of an alliance of European countries that view nuclear energy as a means to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, particularly those from Russia.

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