PARIS, May 25 (UPI) -- European utilities are betting on nuclear power despite Japan's Fukushima crisis, which has resulted in a popularity setback for the energy source and tighter safety rules.
French electricity giant EDF, which operates 58 nuclear reactors in France and 16 in Britain, this week unveiled its long-term corporate strategy. Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio vowed that EDF would continue to push reactor development despite the recent events in Japan.
"Providing competitively priced and carbon-free electricity, nuclear generation has a rightful place in the world's energy mix," the company said in a news release.
Proglio said EDF aims to boost its installed power production capacity from currently 150 gigawatts to 200 GW, half of which will come from nuclear reactors and one-quarter from renewable energy sources.
Eager to sell its European Pressurized Water Reactor to markets across the globe, EDF would like to build new reactors in China, Britain, Brazil, Poland and Turkey.
"Safe nuclear generation is perfectly possible provided that it is based on transparency, on a culture of continuous improvement and on responsible operators who -- like EDF -- combine the three areas of competence: operation, construction and design," the company said.
In the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear crisis, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered stress tests for all French reactors.
In Switzerland and in Italy, politicians shelved plans to build new nuclear power reactors.
Germany, Europe's largest economy, might even shut down plants. Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered comprehensive stress tests for all 17 German reactors and decided to shut down the seven oldest, most of them built during the 1970s, for at least three months. If their safety can't be guaranteed, they might be taken off the grid for good, she said.
The German industry, meanwhile, is looking to other markets.
Utility RWE is eager to join a project run by EDF and Dutch utility Delta to build a new reactor at the Borssele Nuclear Power Station in the Netherlands. The project is valued at around $7 billion, with RWE in talks to acquire a 30 percent stake.
Together with Eon, Germany's largest utility, RWE in 2009 launched the Horizon Nuclear Power joint venture, which aims to invest up to $24 billion into building four reactors in Britain.