French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that he is going to push international financial institutions to "eliminate the ostracism of nuclear energy in international financing".
In a powerful speech at the opening of the plenary session of the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris on Monday, the President pointed out that the economics of civilian nuclear power required an initial investment of billions of euros followed by very low operating costs, which requires long-term funding at reasonable rates. For many countries, this creates a barrier that prevents them adopting nuclear energy.
"Civil nuclear energy is an economic choice .... Frankly, I do not understand why international financial institutions and development banks do not finance civil nuclear energy projects. The current situation means that countries are condemned to rely on more costly energy that causes greater pollution," he said.
"I propose to change all this. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the regional development banks must make a wholehearted commitment to finance such projects."
He also attacked the fact that, currently, countries using nuclear energy cannot obtain carbon credits through clean development mechanisms, describing this situation as a "scandal" and blaming it on "outdated ideology". These carbon credits can only be used to finance the other forms of decarbonised energy.
As a consequence, developing countries' investment choices are distorted.
"We have a complete bias in investment decisions, which impact on the poorest countries," asserted President Sarkozy. "Therefore, I propose that CO2 credits be used to finance all forms of decarbonised energy under the new global architecture after 2013."
"The quasi-theological opposition between nuclear energy and renewable energy sources is out of date," he asserted. "We need both. Of course, nuclear energy cannot reverse climate change on its own, but it will be necessary. It is a lie or illusion to say otherwise."
(Keith Campbell is in Paris as a guest of the French government.)