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French government row over nuclear future comments

The French coalition government has been rocked by comments made by Arnaud Montebourg, the Minister for Industrial Recovery, who described nuclear power as an ‘industry of the future.’

The socialist minister’s comments contradict a commitment by the new government to reduce commitment to nuclear energy on taking office, and have not been well received by green partners.

Arnaud Montebourg

France is the most nuclear-dependent country in the world, with 75 per cent of its energy coming from nuclear, reports Reuters.

In a deal with the Greens before this year’s parliamentary and presidential elections, Socialists promised to reduce the share of nuclear power generation to 50% by 2025, shutting 24 nuclear reactors, but so far, only one of France’s 59 nuclear reactors is due to be decommissioned.

Montebourg called nuclear energy a “tremendous asset” with a key future role, saying: “We need energy that is not too expensive.” He was backed by the interior minister, Manuel Valls, who said nuclear was undeniably a part of the future of French industry.

The Green MP Noàƒ«l Mamàƒ¨re condemned the comments as a provocation. Another Green MP, Denis Baupin, said the government was “divorced from reality”.

The prime minister tried to play down the row, and Montebourg’s views were presented as personal opinions.

It couldn’t come at a worse time for President Hollande, with the government’s environmental conference taking place in two weeks time designed to demonstrate France’s commitment to green issues.

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