French Greens seek nuke power phase-out

June 8, 2011 at 6:32 PM
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LA ROCHELLE, France, June 8 (UPI) -- The French Green Party is calling for a total phaseout of nuclear energy just as a major poll indicated growing public hostility toward the industry.

As part of meetings last weekend in La Rochelle, France, to nominate its candidate for president, members of the Europe Ecology-The Greens Party, which goes by its French initials of EELV, adopted a platform plank calling for elimination of nuclear-generated power within 20 years.

The French have turned against nuclear power, said EELV candidates Nicolas Hulot, a documentary filmmaker and celebrity environmentalist, and Eva Joly, a member of the European Parliament and French magistrate.

Hulot, whose popularity has made him a force in French politics, said he was a late conversion to the anti-nuclear cause in a nation that generates 73 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors.

He has said he changed his mind after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan following March's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

"Fukushima opened minds," he told the Journal Du Dimanche.

EELV National Secretary Cecile Duflot said that a demand to phase out all nuclear power -- as well as to immediately close all nuclear plant more than 30 years old -- would be among demands the party would make as part of an alliance with the French Socialist Party.

"The political decision to phase out nuclear power … must appear in the coalition agreement," Joly said at the meeting.

Whether the Socialists will accept the condition isn't certain but they could use the Greens' help as they seek to oppose the policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his right-wing Popular Movement Union, or UMP.

The Socialists are discussing environmental scenarios with the Greens stretching out as far as 30 years into the future -- seen as a victory for the EELV, the Journal said.

"I learned to speak out on nuclear power in the Socialists' language," Duflot told the newspaper.

The sharp anti-nuclear turn of the EELV and its presidential candidates came during the same weekend a major poll conducted for the Journal Du Dimanche by the French Institute for Public Opinion indicated popular sentiment about nuclear energy has swung sharply negative.

More than six in 10 of respondents said they favored a shutdown of nuclear power plants over a 25- to 30-year period. Combined with the 15 percent, who said they wanted an even quicker halt to the French nuclear program, some 77 percent of the French population is opposed to the energy source, the poll indicated. About 22 percent said that they favor the building of new plants.

The poll of 1,005 people 18 years and over, conducted June 1-3, also revealed that 74 percent of those identifying themselves at Socialist Party voters said they are in favor of a "soft" stop to nuclear power, while 37 percent of UMP voters said they supported that stance.

The poll came in the wake of not only the Japanese nuclear disaster but last week's declaration by German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- made under pressure from Germany's Green Party -- that she wants to close the 17 German plants within 10 years.

The Paris newspaper Le Figaro said interviews with the French public, however, indicated more of them would need to be convinced that France, which is so dependent on nuclear power, could live without the energy source.

Germany, it noted, receives 25 percent of its power from nuclear plants compared with 73 percent for France.

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