France to resume building nuclear reactors decades later

Macron also announces extension of third dose to the over-50s

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The president of France, Emmanuel Macron.

ParisEmmanuel Macron had summoned the French at eight o'clock in the evening. He had scheduled an appearance, broadcast live on the country's radio and television stations, to share a few messages with the population: mainly on the monitoring of the epidemiological situation in France, now that the pandemic is resurgent in some parts of Europe, and also on the economic recovery after months of darkness linked to covid-19. However, probably the most outstanding announcement of Macron served to confirm his commitment to nuclear energy: the politician born in Amiens assured that - as already advanced - France will build new reactors for the first time in decades.

The strategy is clear: now that Brussels is considering accepting to include nuclear in the clean energy package and energy prices are skyrocketing, Macron considers it appropriate not only to abandon the idea of dismantling nuclear power plants but also to make some new ones. "To ensure France's energy independence, we will relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country", he said. The second major reason, according to the Elysée, is to help fight the climate crisis with an energy source that emits virtually no greenhouse gases. "If we want to continue to pay for our energy at reasonable rates and not depend on foreign countries, we need, at the same time, to continue to save energy and invest in the production of decarbonised energies here", added Macron, who underlined the goal of carbon neutrality in 2050.

"Get vaccinated"

The other two major announcements were health-related. The rise in coronavirus cases in Europe has prompted Emmanuel Macron's government to react, saying it will extend the third dose and also vaccinate people over 50. Until now it was only aimed at the over-65s and the immunocompromised. 

In France, the rebound of the coronavirus is slight and the vaccination rate of the population is fairly high (about 75% of citizens are immunised), but the government is concerned that cases have soared in some countries in Europe. "The pandemic is not over", Macron warned. The French executive is also concerned that the call for a third dose of vaccine has not been as successful as expected. Only four out of 10 people who should have received the reminder have come forward to be immunised. The government had been considering for days how to encourage older people to receive the third dose and has finally taken a decision that could prove controversial: from 15 December, to keep the health certificate valid, people over 65 years of age will have to have received the third dose. Macron hopes that the measure will speed up the vaccination of the most vulnerable group, but he has also called on those French people who have refused to be vaccinated to receive the vaccine. "I appeal to the responsibility of people who have not been vaccinated: get vaccinated", he said.

For now, France has ruled out new restrictions, but the president called for the use of face masks in a country where fewer and fewer people use them and to take preventive measures to avoid contagion. The increase in cases and the number of hospitalisations has forced most regions where children no longer wore masks at school to put them back on in class. The president asks for patience and recalls that "by the end of the year" the new treatment against covid-19 that will prevent the most severe forms of the disease should be available.