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- President of France
PARIS (Reuters) -French grid operator RTE said next generation nuclear reactors offer an affordable path to shifting the country's energy mix away from fossil fuels and make the aim of carbon neutrality by 2050 achievable.
"Building new nuclear reactors is economically viable, especially as it makes it possible to maintain a fleet of around 40 gigawatts (GW) in 2050," said the RTE in a report that examined the different pathways to meet the expected rise in electricity demand.
Industry and government sources say the report is expected to help inform President Emmanuel Macron's decision to go ahead with plans to build new nuclear plants.
Le Figaro reported last week that Macron wants to announce the construction of six new EPR nuclear reactors by the end of the year.
Achieving future carbon neutral goals without nuclear reactors would require a scale up of renewables faster than the most dynamic electric mixes in Europe, RTE said.
France and several other European countries have pushed to label nuclear energy as green investments in the European Union's upcoming sustainable finance rules.
The carbon neutral goals will be "impossible" without a significant development of renewable energy, RTE said.
Other supply options include the development of further interconnectors between countries, expanding hydraulic storage, and installing batteries to store renewable power.
New thermal power plants that utilise carbon-free gases, such as "green hydrogen" which is produced through the use of renewable energy, can also be used in order to meet rising consumption forecasts, the operator said.
RTE said the current energy crisis shows Europe's dependence on hydro-carbons, such as gas and coal, has an economic cost and that low-carbon production in the country is an issue of energy independence.
France's nuclear safety watchdog ASN in February cleared more than half of the nuclear fleet to operate for a decade longer than originally planned after maintenance work, as 32-900 megawatt reactors are coming to the end of their lifespan.
France currently has about 62.4 GW of nuclear generation capacity provided by 57 reactors, RTE data showed.
(Reporting by Forrest Crellin and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mike Harrison)