France nuclear power funding gets 1bn euro boost

Fessenheim nuclear plant, France, 14 Mar 11 Anti-nuclear groups have urged France to close Fessenheim - its oldest atomic plant

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France will invest 1bn euros (£0.8bn) in nuclear power despite warnings after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, President Nicolas Sarkozy says.

The new investment will include a boost for research into nuclear safety.

The French nuclear giant Areva is developing the fourth generation of reactors. France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power.

Earlier this year neighbouring Germany, Switzerland and Italy voted against nuclear power, following Fukushima.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says that as president of the G8 and G20 industrial groups, Mr Sarkozy has been pushing for an international standard on nuclear safety.

"We are going to devote a billion euros to the nuclear programme of the future, particularly fourth-generation technology," Mr Sarkozy told a news conference.

"We are also going to release substantial resources from the big loan to strengthen research in the sphere of nuclear safety."

He stressed his government was still investing "massively" in renewable energy. He announced 1.35bn euros of investment for that sector.

But our correspondent says it is obvious how important nuclear power is to the French economy and its energy security.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's cooling systems were knocked out by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The disaster caused a meltdown at three of the reactors and the plant is still leaking radiation.

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