Accepted paper:

Battles on the futures of French nuclear energy


Martin Denoun (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)

Paper short abstract:

Scenarios about the future of nuclear energy are more and more contested in France. We'll see how the "fourth generation" of nuclear reactor is engaged in intense force fields.

Paper long abstract:

Since the 50's, France has planned its energy future with nuclear. Since the 70's, nuclear power has almost been the only way to produce electricity. But since about 20 years, the configuration is quite different: Superphénix fast reactor - which was expected to be the future of french nuclear - has been closed by a political decision ; the climate issue has emerged ; other sources of energy appeared, like renewable energies and shale gas ; « Fukushima » accident happened ; Asia became the main area where reactors are being constructed.

In France, where the nuclear actors are historically very tied to each other, there is probably a trend towards their split. New battles are going on : actors, who seemed before to get into line, mark more and more their disagreement. Thus, institutionnal actors are challenging the energy forecasts made by those who promote a nuclear future. Some contest the credibility of these forecasts, while others put up different scenarios with a very small part of nuclear in the energy mix. At the same time, anti-nuclear actors make an effort to demonstrate that nuclear isn't sustainable nor desirable.

We will show, through a long-run corpus analysis and a series of interviews, that, in spite of the inertia force of nuclear technology, the future of French nuclear, and especially the « fourth generation » reactor, is quite dependent on a lot of events, including some unpredictible ones.

panel T078
Contested energy futures and temporalities in retrospective: instruments and practices of forecasting and scenario work