France drafts law to streamline red tape around nuclear reactor construction

A flag with the EDF logo flies next to the EDF power plant in Bouchain
A flag with the company logo of Electricite de France (EDF) and a French flag fly next to the EDF power plant in Bouchain, near Valenciennes, France, September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

PARIS, Sept 27 (Reuters) - France is drafting legislation to streamline bureaucracy around nuclear power projects and aims to start construction of its first next-generation EPR2 reactor before May 2027, an energy ministry official said on Tuesday.

President Emmanuel Macron has put nuclear power at the heart of his country's drive for carbon neutrality by 2050, with plans to build at least six new reactors, and his government wants to reduce the bureaucratic processes involved.

France's nuclear fleet has come under scrutiny, with a wave of repairs at power stations forcing a record number of reactors offline and sending nuclear power production to a 30-year low, exacerbating Europe's energy crisis.

"The goal is for the procedural part and authorisations to last less than five years and for construction work on the first EPR2 (reactor) to start before the end of the presidential term, before May 2027," the ministry official told reporters.

"The latest timetable ... sees commercial operations at that reactor starting from 2035-36," the official added.

The government estimates the six new reactors will cost 51.7 billion euros ($49.8 billion).

The bill, which the government wants drafted by the end of October, will simplify red tape and reduce the risk of multiple legal objections.

Anti-nuclear power campaign group Greenpeace said it would ride roughshod over public consultation processes.

"The only thing this bill will accelerate is the regression of environmental law," Pauline Boyer of Greenpeace France said in a statement.

Energy giant EDF plans to construct the reactors on three existing sites: two at Penly, in the Seine-Maritime administrative department, two at Gravelines, in northern France, and two in either Bugey, eastern France, or Tricastin, in southern France.

EDF, which is undergoing a governance overhaul and full nationalisation, issued a fifth profit warning of the year last month and is now expecting lower production to shave 29 billion euros ($29 billion) off its core earnings in 2022. read more

($1 = 1.0390 euros)

Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Dominique Vidalon Editing by Richard Lough and Mark Potter

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