Greens see red after French minister hints at nuclear U-turn
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
French Socialist Party member and Poitou-Charentes' regional president, Segolene Royal speaks during the opening of the Europe-Ecology-Greens party (EELV) ecologists summer days in Poitiers, centre France, on August 22, 2012. AFP photoFrench Greens reacted angrily on Monday after a government minister described nuclear power as the "energy of the future," casting doubt on a commitment to slash the country's number of reactors.
The Greens, minority partners in France's Socialist-led administration, lashed out at Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg for comments in which he lauded France's nuclear industry as a "tremendous asset." "We need energy that is not too expensive," Montebourg said.
France is the world's most nuclear-dependent country, operates 58 reactors and has been a leading international proponent of atomic energy.
But in a deal with the Greens before this year's parliamentary and presidential elections, the Socialists promised to reduce France's reliance on nuclear energy from more than 75 percent to 50 percent by shutting 24 nuclear reactors by 2025.
The Greens, who have 17 seats in the 577-member National Assembly and two ministers in the government, have pushed for alternative sources like wind and solar power to replace nuclear energy.
"This is a provocation.... It is very worrying to see these statements from someone who is not isolated, who is an important member of the government," said prominent Green Noel Mamere, warning the party may need to reconsider its pact with the Socialists.
The vice president of the Greens' parliamentary group, Denis Baupin, said Montebourg's remarks were "completely at odds with reality", while a Green Party spokesman said they were "isolated statements" that did not represent government policy.
But Interior Minister Manuel Valls backed his colleague, saying nuclear energy was "undeniably" a part of France's energy future.
Green Party Housing Minister Cecile Duflot downplayed the remarks, saying President Francois Hollande's government would stick by its promises.
"This agreement will be met. The president's commitments apply to everyone," Duflot said.