France seeks pro-nuclear alliance for EU energy talks

FILE PHOTO: Night view shows Electricite de France nuclear power plant near Fessenheim

By Kate Abnett

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -France is planning a meeting on Tuesday with 12 other European Union countries, with the aim of building an alliance of states to advocate for nuclear power in EU energy policies.

The move comes amid a growing dispute between France and like-minded countries who want more EU policies to promote nuclear as a low-carbon energy source, and those like Germany and Spain who say the fuel should not be put on a level footing with renewable energy.

The meeting, convened by French energy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher on the sidelines of a meeting of EU countries' energy ministers in Stockholm, will focus on the contribution of nuclear energy to climate change goals and energy security, a French official said.

The aim is to form a pro-nuclear alliance with other countries ahead of EU negotiations, the official said, without specifying which policies these negotiations concerned.

The countries due to attend are Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands and Finland, as well as the European Commission.

Dutch energy minister Rob Jetten said he welcomed the cooperation, but noted that the Netherlands disagrees with France on some points - including the Dutch view that the EU should prioritise renewable-based hydrogen before other low-carbon forms of the fuel.

"I think it's very good that we have a platform with the nuclear countries just to share knowledge and experiences," Jetten told Reuters.

EU countries are responsible for their national energy mixes, and have varying views on nuclear.

Countries including France, Sweden and Hungary already use nuclear power, while Poland wants to build its first reactors. Austria and Luxembourg oppose the energy source, citing concerns about radioactive waste and safety, while others including Germany are phasing out their reactors.

The disagreement on how to handle nuclear has already delayed negotiations on new EU renewable energy targets, after a push by Paris to have nuclear-driven hydrogen counted towards the goals.

Officials say the dispute is spreading to other policies. EU countries failed last week to agree priorities for climate change diplomacy because of the row over nuclear, which has also threatened a multi-billion-euro hydrogen pipeline.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Ed Osmond, Kirsten Donovan)