Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:58AM
The post-Fukushima backlash against nuclear power continues to draw supporters across the world. Even France, the world’s leading proponent of atomic energy, has joined the movement, but they are finding many obstacles in the transition to green power.
At a recent ecological conference President Francois Hollande reaffirmed his commitment to a raft of campaign promises which some say will have France firmly moving away from nuclear energy. After long being dependent on German coal, France became the world’s biggest user, and seller, of nuclear power. But in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, Hollande promised that by 2025 France will have cut its use of atomic electricity by one-third. With Japan recently pledging to be nuclear-free by 2040, many wonder if France is now on the anti-nuclear bandwagon. France’s nuclear program has benefited from massive subsidies for decades, and environmentalists have repeatedly asked for the sponsoring of similar efforts for renewable energy. Many fairly point out that green technology can’t immediately replace nuclear energy’s output, but they may be falsely assuming that heavy carbon emitters like coal or gas will be required to fill the gap. While cutting consumption in the West would reverse decades of consumer culture, many say the state can help by demanding more energy-efficient appliances from manufacturers and finally taxing carbon emissions. Hollande announced plans for two massive wind farms off the Atlantic coast, but that won’t offset the loss of one nuclear plant, so France has much to do to wean itself off of nuclear dependence. Until France massively invests in renewable energy research and comes up with a major breakthrough, the short-term effect of Hollande’s measures should be increased reliance on nearby gas-producing regions like the Middle East and East Africa.