In the midst of worldwide crisis of escalating oil prices, France is among the few countries that are least affected. The reason being country’s well developed, organized and well structured nuclear power sector, which produces almost 80% of countries total power. With annual nuclear power generation of 428.7 TWh from 59 nuclear power plants, France is second largest generator of nuclear power after United States and is leading country on basis of per capita nuclear power production. France began promoting nuclear power in the 1970s when its reliance on fossil fuels for power generation was an estimated 65%. Today, France is the net exported of the electricity. French nuclear power is efficient and low cost and French electricity tariffs are therefore the lowest in Europe.
Electricite de France (EdF), owned by the French government, controls almost the entire market for nuclear power generation and distribution in the country. Areva Group and its subsidiaries are responsible for remaining activities of the nuclear fuel cycle – from mining to management and disposition of nuclear waste. Other key players in the French nuclear industry include CEA, Cogema, ANDRA, Eurodif and IRSN.
The Energy Policy of 2005 establishes guidelines for energy strategy and security in France. The role of nuclear power is central to this along with specific decisions concerning the European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), notably to build an initial unit so as to be able to decide by 2015 on building a series of about 40 of them. It also set out research policy for developing innovative energy technologies consistent with reducing carbon dioxide emissions and it defined the role of renewable energies in the production of electricity, in thermal uses and transport.
France is member of several international organizations, including the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Nuclear Power Agency (NEA) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as well as other bilateral and multilateral organizations such as the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).
France is also member of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), an international
collective of 10 countries dedicated to the development of the next generation of nuclear
reactors and fuel cycle technologies. Furthermore, France has taken a leading role in the development of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a
consortium of the European Union, the United States, Japan, Russia, China, and South
Korea that seeks to build a working fusion reactor at a testing site in Cadarache, France
Recent increases in oil prices has once again shifted the focus on nuclear power development and with France’s energy consumption expected to grow by 50% over the next two decades, France has plans to further grow its nuclear power industry. The French government has called for a significant expansion of the industry, including the construction of a third-generation of nuclear reactors and the upgrading of existing plants.