Despite the recent problems with the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plants caused by the tsunami and just a day after demonstrations around France’s No1 nuclear reactor at Fassenheim, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy committed €1 billion to the French nuclear programme.

Since the severe nuclear incidents at Fukushima the general political appetite to be seen pursuing a nuclear power agenda has definitely diminished, even if only temporarily.

But going against the populist grain Sarkozy said that there was no alternative to nuclear power today and that an abandonment of nuclear energy ‘makes no sense’.

At present France has 58 nuclear reactors that provide nearly three quarters of its electricity. France is also the globe’s largest net exporter of nuclear powered electricity.

Around him, Germany has pledged to shut down its 17 nuclear reactors by 2022. This will cost some €40 billion and mean replacing the 40% of the country’s energy that nuclear provides from another source. And Switzerland will decommission its five nuclear stations by 2034, which again supply 40% of that country’s current energy.

Just recently Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, was soundly beaten by 94% of voters in a referendum on restarting Italy’s nuclear energy programme.

Sarkozy’s stance on nuclear power is however balanced by France’s intention to also plough €1.3 billion into renewables.

The French president backed the safety of his country’s nuclear power plants by saying that France was ahead of other countries in the field of nuclear safety and said that ‘Our power stations are more expensive because they are safer’.

Whatever you think of Sarkozy, you cannot question his courage in standing by his convictions over this issue.

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