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France to invest 1 billion euros in nuclear energy, going against the tide in Europe

As neighboring countries cut back nuclear ambitions after the Fukushima disaster, French President Sarkozy says, "There is no alternative to nuclear energy"

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech on June 27, 2011 during his fourth press conference at the Elysee Palace where he announced that France would invest 1 billion euros in atomic power. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

Going against the tide of caution sweeping Europe after the nuclear disaster in Japan, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Monday that France would invest 1 billion euros in atomic power.

In spite of growing safety concerns in neighboring countries including Germany and Switzerland, Sarkozy said that abandoning the development and construction of new nuclear reactors was not an option, according to the Los Angeles Times. "There is no alternative to nuclear energy today," he said.

He added that France would apply "substantial resources" to boost research into nuclear safety and invest an additional 1.35 billion euros in renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power.

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After the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan earlier this year, Germany, Switzerland and Italy voted against nuclear power, according to BBC News. The Fukushima facility's cooling systems were knocked out of commission in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The disaster resulted in a meltdown at three of the reactors and the plant continues to leak radiation.

On Sunday, thousands of protesters formed a human chain around France's oldest nuclear power plant, in the northeastern city of Fessenheim, calling for the facility to be shut down, VOA reported. French officials are weighing if it's feasible to allow the plant to operate for another 10 years.

France is heavily reliant on nuclear energy, with 58 nuclear reactors that supply 74% of the country's electricity, and it is the world's largest net exporter of electricity from nuclear sources, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sarkozy said France was known to be "considerably ahead" of other countries in nuclear technology and safety.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/110627/sarkozy-france-invest-one-billion-euros-nuclear-power