by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Sept 7, 2012
French Ecology and Energy Minister Delphine Batho said Friday the government was still committed to closing the country's oldest operational nuclear plant by 2017.
A steam leak due to an accidental chemical reaction led to two people being slightly burnt on Wednesday at the Fessenheim plant, located in eastern France close to the Swiss and German borders.
The incident resulted in renewed calls to reduce the country's heavy reliance on atomic energy.
"The commitment of the president will be fulfilled, Fessenheim will be closed as soon as possible in socially and technically responsible conditions," Batho told France Info radio.
France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country, operates 58 reactors and has been a leading international proponent of atomic energy.
But in a deal with the Greens before this year's parliamentary and presidential elections, President Francois Hollande's Socialist party promised to reduce reliance on nuclear energy from more than 75 percent to 50 percent by shutting 24 reactors by 2025.
Hollande had also pledged to close Fessenheim by 2017.
France's reliance on nuclear power has been increasingly called into question since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, which prompted Germany to announce plans to shut all of its reactors by the end of 2022.
On stream since 1977, Fessenheim has two water reactors. It is built along a huge canal and draws water for cooling from the Rhine river.
Due to its location, it is considered vulnerable to seismic activity and flooding.
Batho said that "nuclear plants are being phased out across the world in coming years and this is an industrial issue for France."
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