Publié le 15/10/2023

Éric-André MARTIN, quoted in Financial Times

The two nations have opposing ideas about atomic energy, threatening the EU’s transition away from fossil fuels.

Near the French village of Fessenheim, facing Germany across the Rhine, a nuclear power station stands dormant. The German protesters that once demanded the site’s closure have decamped, and the last watts were produced three years ago. 

But disagreements over how the plant from 1977 should be repurposed persist, speaking to a much deeper divide over nuclear power between the two countries on either side of the river’s banks.

German officials have disputed a proposal to turn it into a centre to treat metals exposed to low levels of radioactivity, Fessenheim’s mayor Claude Brender says. “They are not on board with anything that might in some way make the nuclear industry more acceptable,” he adds.

France and Germany’s split over nuclear power is a tale of diverging mindsets fashioned over decades, including since the Chernobyl disaster in USSR-era Ukraine. But it has now become a major faultline in a touchy relationship between Europe’s two biggest economies.

Their stand-off over how to treat nuclear in a series of EU reforms has consequences for how Europe plans to advance towards cleaner energy. It will also affect how the bloc secures power supplies as the region weans itself off Russian gas, and how it provides its industry with affordable energy to compete with the US and China. 

“There can be squabbles between partners. But we’re not in a retirement home today squabbling over trivial matters. Europe is in a serious situation,” says Eric-André Martin, a specialist in Franco-German relations at French think-tank IFRI. 

France, which produces two-thirds of its power from nuclear plants and has plans for more reactors, is fighting for the low-carbon technology to be factored into its targets for reducing emissions and for leeway to use state subsidies to fund the sector.


  • See this article on the Financial Times [1] Website. (for subscribers only).