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Africa

French parliament votes to reduce nuclear power but export market looks healthy

media Despite the energy transiton bill, EDF boss Henri Proglio predicts a bright future for nuclear power in France AFP/Patrick Kovarik

The lower house of France’s parliament has passed a bill that aims to reduce French dependency on nuclear energy from 75 per cent to 50 per cent by 2025, although nuclear power is on the increase at the moment and France is selling its expertise abroad.

As MPs voted 314-219 for the energy transition bill, the boss of electricity supplier EDF, Henri Proglio, announced that nuclear power will have a prime place in France’s future energy supply.

At the opening of the first world nuclear exhibition in Le Bourget, just outside Paris, Proglio said production had gone up 2.5 per cent over the last year, thanks to a reduction in the time reactors were inactive during maintenance.

And France took a step closer to selling its nuclear knowhow to South Africa on Tuesday when Paris and Pretoria signed an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy development.

It could open the way for nuclear giant Areva, which is majority-owned by the French state, to bid to build eight nuclear reactors in South Africa.

The deal, if sealed, would be worth close to 40 billion euros.

Last month South Africa signed a similar agreement with Russia.

South Africa currently has only one nuclear power plant in Koeberg and relies mainly on coal to generate electricity.

Areva is keen to use the technology of its third-generation EPR reactor.

It is currently building EPR reactors in France, Finland and China.

And EDF chose EPR reactors for its 18.9-billion-euro project to build a nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in the UK.

At home Ecology and Energy Minister Ségolène Royal sparked controversy on Tuesday by declaring that “it is not certain” that the ageing Fessenheim nuclear power station in Alsace will close, despite the fact that it was one of François Hollande’s campaign pledges in the 2012 presidential election.

The bill aims to reduce energy consumption 20 per cent by 2030, encourages energy-saving in building projects and renovations and includes measures to increase the use of clean-energy vehicles.

France's Green Party, EELV, which quit the govenrment earlier this year, voted for the bill, claiming that it showed evidence of their input and green campaigners welcomed it, although with some reservations.

The Fondation Nicolas Hulot environment campaign hailed some "important steps forward" but claimed not enough is planend to encouorage motorists to give up diesel vehicless and criticised the government's climbdown on the controversial ecotax last week.

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