PARIS: France's parliament voted in favour of the government's nuclear investment plan with a large majority on Tuesday (Mar 21), a day after the government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote over its pension reform plan.
The nuclear renewal plan, whose key plank is the planned construction of six new nuclear reactors, was approved with 402 votes in favour and 130 against. On Monday, 278 lawmakers backed an opposition-led no-confidence motion, coming just nine votes short of the 287 needed for it to bring down the government.
"After the Senate last month, the lower house this evening by a large majority voted in favour of the nuclear plan ... the result of a work of co-construction, to tackle climate change and guarantee our energy sovereignty," Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted.
President Emmanuel Macron is looking to regain the initiative with new reforms in the coming weeks after his government nearly fell over the pension reform plan, and nuclear energy is one of the issues on which his centrist party sees eye to eye with the conservative Les Republicains as well as the far-right Rassemblement National.
"Our objective is to make France a major carbon-free and sovereign nation," Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher tweeted, adding that this was the first building block for the "immense project of relaunching our nuclear industry".
She said that in the race to build new nuclear, administrative procedures should not slow down the life extension of existing reactors or the construction of new ones.
"With this project, we are launching the biggest scientific, industrial and human adventure that our country has known since the seventies," Pannier-Runacher said.
Macron aims to start construction of a first next-generation EPR2 nuclear reactor before the end of his second five-year term in May 2027 as part of a €52 billion (US$56 billion) plan to build six new reactors.
The plan comes as France has suffered months of major outages at its existing fleet of 56 reactors, sending nuclear power production to a 30-year low, and while its first-generation EPR under construction in Flamanville, western France, is years behind schedule and billions over budget.