June 5, 2014 / 9:42 PM / 5 years ago

Reducing France's nuclear reliance will take longer than planned: CEA head

PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande’s plan to reduce nuclear’s share in France’s electricity production mix from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025 is not feasible without putting the country in difficulty and 2050 would be more realistic, the head of state nuclear agency CEA said on Thursday.

Cutting back reliance on nuclear energy was one of Hollande’s major campaign promises and is set to become part of an energy transition law that Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal will present to the government next week.

It will be presented to parliament in July.

Asked about Hollande’s target during a press visit to CEA headquarters south of Paris, Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique director Bernard Bigot said: “Frankly, I do not think it would be possible, except by putting this country in big difficulties”.

He said he could not see how France would be able to replace that much nuclear power with renewable energy by then.

Bigot said he had discussed the nuclear issue with Royal, but declined to elaborate.

“Political voluntarism is one thing. Me, I am a technical expert,” he said.

The CEA is a public nuclear research institute which plays a key role in French nuclear policy and holds a 62-percent stake in state-controlled nuclear group Areva, where Bigot is deputy chairman of the firm’s supervisory board.

Bigot also supported French state-controlled utility EDF Chief Executive Henri Proglio’s position that as power demand and renewable energy production grow, France should not cut back nuclear capacity and should start thinking about renewing its 58 nuclear reactors.

“Even with 50 percent of French electricity provided by nuclear energy by 2050 ...we will still need at least 35 nuclear reactors,” Bigot said.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Benjamin Mallet; editing by Jason Neely

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