Turning on the heat
the Green Party in France has threatened to pull out of the government coalition if prime minister Lionel Jospin approved a new generation of nuclear power stations to replace the old ones. The nuclear energy issue has always been a point for debate among coalition partners. France has 57 nuclear reactors which provide 78 per cent of the country's energy, which is one of the highest rates in the world.
In the coming years, most of these plants will become obsolete. In that scenario, France will have the choice of phasing them out or replacing them with a new type, known as the European Pressurised Reactors. Developed in a Franco-German project, these reactors are expected to become operational by 2010.
As in other European countries, the Greens in France have strongly campaigned against nuclear energy. They are not willing to accept any compromise on this issue. "It's a very fundamental question for us,' said Dennis Baupin, the spokesperson for the Green Party. "Do we replace the decommissioned plants with new ones or do we start to opt out of nuclear energy, like Belgium and Germany? If the decision is for new plants, we will pull out,' he added.
The Green Party has also renewed its demand for a national referendum on the country's energy strategy and the future of nuclear power. They are planning to stage a series of protests against nuclear power. Political analysts feel that the Greens in France have been encouraged by their counterparts in Germany who have been pressuring the government of Gerhard Schroeder to phase-out nuclear energy.