France to take a decade longer to reduced reliance on nuclear: minister

French Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition Nicolas Hulot leaves the Elysee Palace after the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French environment minister Nicolas Hulot said on Wednesday that reducing the share of nuclear energy in France’s power mix to 50 percent from 75 percent will probably take until 2030-35 instead of 2025.

On Tuesday, Hulot said the government had dropped a target date of 2025, saying it was not realistic and would boost CO2 emissions. He did not give a new deadline.

The target was part of the previous Socialist government’s 2015 energy transition law and was confirmed by new centrist president Emmanuel Macron’s government.

“We will probably have to delay until 2030 or 2035, we will see, at the latest 2035, but don’t ask me to be more precise as that would mean everything has already been decided,” Hulot said on BFM Television.

He added that in the coming year, the government would hold public consultations and talks with unions and the energy sector to come up with a new deadline and a program for closing nuclear reactors.

On Tuesday, Hulot said that reaching the 50 percent target by 2025 would mean closing 17 to 25 nuclear reactors.

France’s is the world’s most nuclear-reliant country. State-controlled utility EDF generates about three-quarters of French power with 58 nuclear reactors in 19 nuclear plants.

EDF argues that it makes no economic sense to close well-functioning nuclear plants and instead wants to extend the lifespan of its nuclear reactors from 40 to 50 years and longer.

Environmentalists say that the billions of euros needed to upgrade EDF’s nuclear reactors would be better spent on renewable energies like wind and solar, which also do not emit carbon but do not come with the risk of nuclear accidents and nuclear waste.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Jason Neely and Louise Heavens