The days of this factory, which supplies a quarter of the energy needs of its region of western France, are now numbered. The plant is due to close in 2026.
In the employment area around Cordemais, the question of the future of this plant is particularly sensitive, launches Gwénaël Plagne, who has worked there for twenty years.
What will happen to the building and its workers once the coal stops burning there?
In recent months, an idea has been circulating: to transform the site into a small nuclear power station.
I think it’s definitely worth testing, launches Christelle Monraçais, the president of the Pays de la Loire region, who judges that studies must be carried out to verify the reliability of such a project.
According to the elected official, the switch to nuclear would allow jobs to be retained in Cordemais while ensuring that the electricity supply in its region is maintained.
” I believe that this energy transition will be successful with the energy mix. We cannot have 100% renewable energy. It is also a question of sovereignty in terms of energy and that is why I also believe a lot in nuclear power. “
A change of speech
Although the Minister for the Ecological Transition has expressed some reservations about the location of the site, the idea of making Cordemais the site of a mini nuclear power plant echoes the comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron.
We will, for the first time in decades, relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country, announced the Head of State during a speech to the nation in early November.
Although it already accounts for more than 70% of the country’s electricity production, the nuclear sector has been the subject of strong criticism in recent decades, in particular for reasons related to safety or to waste management. .
In the 1990s, a nuclear power plant project was abandoned in Le Carnet, not far from Cordemais, in the face of a major opposition movement from the local population.
Researcher Nicolas Mazzucchi, of the Foundation for Strategic Research, recognizes that legitimate questions have been asked about nuclear management, especially waste.
However, he says he has noticed for a few years
a shift more and more towards a pronuclear feeling, in particular on the issue of the fight against climate change and the production of carbon-free electricity.
In addition to the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, the researcher asserts that factors related to energy security are part of the debate. Nicolas Mazzucchi gives in particular the example of Germany, which has undertaken a nuclear phase-out, which should end in 2022, and which depends in part on gas imported from Russia to make its energy transition a success.
” Safety, whether for the continuity of supplies, but also for the consumer’s bill to remain under control, this is gaining in importance in the debate. “
A turn that is not unanimous
If nuclear power is invited into the speeches of certain French politicians, this energy sector continues to fuel fears and criticism.
Solène Mesnager, elected ecologist of the Pays de la Loire, the region which includes Cordemais, questions the energy security offered by nuclear power, since it requires uranium sometimes imported
from extremely unstable countries, such as Kazakhstan and Niger, where authoritarian regimes rule.
According to the regional adviser, if the French authorities really want to start a green shift, they should prioritize the development of renewable energies, rather than strengthening the nuclear industry.
” Today, at a time when we have renewable electricity available and when we know that it is a technology that is becoming less and less expensive, I absolutely do not see the strategic interest in redeveloping nuclear power. “
In Cordemais, some workers like Gwénaël Plagne had rightly proposed a green alternative solution to give new life to the coal-fired power station. Their natural waste fuel project has not materialized so far, however.
Will the idea of a mini nuclear power plant be the one favored by decision-makers? Could we instead choose to build the reactors there? Could these options meet with opposition movement?
One thing is certain, given the energy needs, Gwénaël Plagne expects the discussion to gain momentum.
We can clearly see that the energy situation, with the price which increases with more and more difficulties, even for the winter in France, with a winter which promises to be difficult for the electricity supply. Obviously, it is a subject which animates and which is to be looked at closely., he says.