According to this article France postpones nuclear power reduction:

The French government has postponed a long-held target to reduce the share of nuclear energy in the country’s power production after grid operator RTE warned it risked supply shortages after 2020 and could miss a goal to curb carbon emissions.

In 2015, the previous government of Socialist Francois Hollande passed an energy transition law setting out the 50 percent target by 2025. But Hollande took no concrete steps towards closing any reactors.

On the other hand Germany has committed to drastically reduce nuclear power usage:

Mr Rottgen said the seven oldest reactors - which were taken offline for a safety review immediately after the Japanese crisis - would never be used again. An eighth plant - the Kruemmel facility in northern Germany, which was already offline and has been plagued by technical problems, would also be shut down for good.

Six others would go offline by 2021 at the latest and the three newest by 2022, he said.

I am wondering why France's policy towards nuclear power usage is so different since both are EU core countries having similar economical context.

Question: Why is France cutting nuclear power policy so different than Germany's?

  • 11
    Not an answer because I don't know the politics, but France derives 71% of its energy from nuclear, while for Germany it's only 11% according to wikipedia. This likely makes a difference in how they plan to stop using it.
    – Deolater
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 16:06
  • @Deolater - yes, it makes sense. You can evolve this idea into an answer.
    – Alexei
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 16:07
  • 2
    A good answer for this question would also include the availability of natural resources like fossil fuels, or alternative green powers. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 16:13
  • 1
    France still wants to sell the EPR and EDF is already deep in debt. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


When the Oil Crisis hit in 1973 France was heavily dependent upon foreign oil for energy production - and it was in response to that vulnerability that they made a big push towards becoming self-sufficient as regards power, and nuclear was seen as the way to do this (aka the Messmer Plan) - hence the overwhelmingly large proportion of the country's electricity is produced this way today.

So purely from a logistical perspective it is going to be a bigger change for France to reduce this than Germany where it's never been more than a ~22% contributor.

From a political perspective this is largely an economics issue for the French governement.

France's nuclear plants are owned and operated by EDF, which in turn is owned by the French governement (well they own ~85% of it anyway). Closing these plants is something that is/would be phenomonally expensive for EDF (and the government by extension) - the EU hass estimated the costs at ~ €74 billion, and replacing them with non-nuclear options is going to cost yet more!

Additionally power is a big export for France - they are the second biggest exporter of electricity in the EU so while they could potentially decommission some of their existing reactors and still keep their own populace supplied the lost revenue to the country would be substantial. I'm no longer working in the energy industry so I don't have access to the figures I used to but back in 2016 it was in the region of 50 million MWh with each MWh fetching about €75 and with France's nuclear plants generating a MWh for around €35 (at least pre-Fukishima changes) so that's a huge chunk of money even taking transmission costs into account!

Germany is another big exporter of electricity (currently top in the EU I believe), however as discussed above they have no where near the reliance on nuclear that France does (they have 8 reactors vs France's 58 IIRC) and they also have a strong native renewables industry, so moving away from nuclear power is likely to be a positive economic move for them.

  • 1
    +1. Very interesting answer. Now the next question is how Germany and France got to rely so differently on nuclear energy or better why France did not invest in alternative sources in timely fashion like Germany did? But this belongs more to history than politics.
    – Alexei
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 19:34
  • @Alexi yeah it's an interesting tale...but probably a little out of scope here. Really it's the story of the 70s Oil Crisis Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 19:47

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