PARIS - International development banks must finance civilian nuclear projects to help emerging nations build energy plants, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday, laying out ambitious plans to develop the industry.
France is one of the world's largest users of nuclear energy, generating 80 percent of its power consumption from a network of 58 nuclear reactors, and is actively seeking to sell its nuclear technology to countries around the world.
I do not understand and I do not accept the ostracisation of nuclear projects by international financing, Sarkozy told a major conference on nuclear energy.
Nuclear power producer EDF and reactor maker Areva were among a French consortium which bid for and lost a $40 billion nuclear project in Abu Dhabi in December.
They remain very active on the export front, trying to sell their decades-long nuclear expertise to countries such as the United States, Britain, Italy, China or India.
Sarkozy said the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other such institutions should make a wholehearted commitment to fund civilian nuclear energy programmes.
It is a scandal that international organisations today do not finance nuclear projects, he said. The current situation means that countries are condemned to rely on more costly energy that causes greater pollution.
The nuclear option is now part of a mix of power sources countries need to develop to ensure their energy security, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The gas crisis in 2009, the economic crisis and the climate alert have changed the situation. Nuclear energy is now increasingly seen as a possible solution to ensure energy supply security and the fight against climate change, Barroso told the conference after Sarkozy's speech.
In an effort to make nuclear energy more attractive to potential buyers, Sarkozy said he also wanted a change in international laws to allow nuclear producers to benefit from carbon credits that are currently denied to the industry.
I propose that CO2 credits be used to finance all forms of decarbonised energy under the new global architecture after 2013, he told an audience of nuclear experts gathered at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
FOCUS ON FUEL AND TRAINING
Some 56 nuclear reactors are under construction around the world and the United Nations says that over the next 20 years more than 20 states, including emerging economies, could put into service their first reactor for civilian energy.
It also estimates that some 60 countries are considering nuclear programmes, with many of them dispatching ministers and senior officials to Paris for the two-day conference.
Among the measures needed to promote the development of the industry, Sarkozy said he wanted to see better training and steps to secure the supply of nuclear fuel.
He proposed creating an International Nuclear Energy Institute in France.
It will bring together the best teachers and researchers to provide very high quality education, he said.
He also put forward a plan to set up a fuel bank under the authority of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, which would step in when fuel supplies were interrupted.
Only countries that respected non-proliferation treaties would be able to benefit from such international infrastructure.
One cannot ask for civil nuclear energy cooperation, with the long-term partnership and responsibility that it entails, and then renege on international obligations, he said, in a clear reference to Iran, which is locked in conflict with the West over its nuclear programme.