Welcoming the attendees of an international energy conference in Paris, Sarkozy said the world needed nuclear power to fight climate change.
He added the technology should become accessible also to developing countries, urging international finance institutions such as the World Bank not to ignore nuclear when handing out development loans.
Sarkozy denounced the perception that poor countries didn't have the right to nuclear because they can't be trusted to keep it safe.
"That is closing the door to progress and a better life to those who have nothing," he said.
The remarks come as nuclear power is experiencing a worldwide revival.
U.S. President Barack Obama last month handed loan guarantees to two new reactor projects launched in Georgia; the president has said the technology is key to the American energy strategy, which had not seen new reactors since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.
India and China want the technology to fuel their economic growth, and across Europe, nations including Britain and several in Central and Eastern Europe are planning new reactors to increase energy security and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in their power mix.
The world's second-largest nuclear nation behind the United States, France has a vested interest in fueling this revival.
The country's industry is world-leading; it includes giants Reva and EDF, the designers of the European Pressurized Reactor. The third-generation PER is considered one of the most advanced in the world. However, the only two models under construction in Finland and France have been plagued by costly construction delays.
Recently, the French companies lost a $20 billion deal to supply four reactors to United Arab Emirates. The contract went to South Korea's Kopeck instead -- its reactor is cheaper.
In a bid to reverse that trend, Sarkozy called for security instead of pricing to dominate the agenda, urging the International Atomic Energy Agency to rate the world's reactors on offer according to their safety record.
He also announced he would pool the country's nuclear expertise in a new body called the International Institute of Nuclear Energy. It would make sure France will keep its nuclear power expertise by training young scientists and engineers.
Meanwhile, another big nuclear nation -- neighboring Germany -- is considering extending the lifetime of its nuclear power plants beyond 2020.
Under current law, the 17 remaining German reactors are due to be shut down by the end of that year but the ranking coalition has promised to re-consider that plan. Berlin is about to commission studies on the best future energy mix and will announce its final decision on nuclear later this year.
While German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen has in the past lobbied for getting rid of nuclear power, his boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday made clear that this was not an option anytime soon.
Taking into account environmental, economic and sustainability aspects, it's obvious that Germany's nuclear power plants, "will have to run longer than until 2020," Merkel said Monday in remarks to the foreign media in Berlin.