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UPDATE 1-France's Macron says nuclear will remain key energy source

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PARIS, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Nuclear power will remain a key part of France’s energy supplies, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday in a show of support for the industry even as he looks to reduce nuclear’s dominance as a power source.

France has said it will cut its reliance on nuclear energy to 50% from 75% by 2035 and has yet to make a final decision on whether to build next-generation EPR nuclear reactors.

That is due by 2023, by which time state-controlled utility EDF’s Flamanville 3 EPR project should be up and running, but Macron said he wanted to make a big push on preparations by next year.

“The preparatory studies around the construction of new reactors are key and I want them to continue and be wrapped up in the coming months,” Macron said during a visit to nuclear components maker Framatome, part of EDF.

EDF, which has been plagued by delays and cost overruns on existing projects, has already said it plans to unveil a new, cheaper-to-build version of its EPR nuclear reactor by mid-2021.

Macron nonetheless signalled broad support for the industry, even as he flagged the need to move more towards renewable energy. He said France’s next-generation aircraft carrier would be nuclear-powered.

“The nuclear industry will remain the cornerstone of our strategic autonomy,” Macron said.

Some environmental campaigners have hit out at this policy, with Greenpeace calling nuclear energy a “false solution” to climate change concerns, saying it entailed costs that could be better spent on cleaner solutions.

France is continental Europe’s only nuclear power. Britain is a nuclear power too, though its relationship with the European Union - from trade to security - once it leaves the EU’s orbit on Jan. 1 remains uncertain. (Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic, Geert De Clercq; Writing by Matthieu Protard and Sarah White; Editing by Mark Potter)

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