The Challenge of Reviving the French Nuclear Industry
French leaders built the country into a global nuclear powerhouse to bolster French sovereignty. After years of stagnation, Emmanuel Macron plans to expand France’s fleet of reactors.
France has built its nuclear industry to a scale unmatched by any other European country. In 2019, France’s fleet of nuclear reactors generated about 400 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity.1 The commercial French nuclear industry includes 56 reactors, 220,000 employees, and over 3000 companies according to the French nuclear industry trade association, with total annual revenues of €47.5 billion.2 On the global stage, France is currently the third-largest generator of nuclear energy after the U.S. and China. But as a component of its energy mix, France’s reliance on nuclear energy is exceptional. It comprised 37% of French primary energy3 in 2021 and reached a peak of 78% of electricity production in 1993. Even today, after relative stagnation and diversion of resources to renewable energy, nuclear power covers 70% of French electricity production—by far the highest percentage in the world. Only Slovakia and Ukraine also consistently use nuclear energy for over 50% of electricity needs.4