France to build new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

AP International

French President Emmanuel Macron, center, visits the Framatome nuclear reactor production site in Le Creusot, France, which the government holds up as an example of industry that serves both civilian and military needs, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. Macron wants to stress that nuclear energy is central to France’s energy transition and says it emits less than wind or solar. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, Pool)

PARIS (AP) — France will build a new, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to replace its Charles de Gaulle carrier by 2038, French President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday.

Macron framed the decision to use nuclear reactors to propel the future warship as part of France’s climate strategy, stressing its lower emissions compared to diesel fuel.

Speaking at a nuclear facility in the Burgundy town of Le Creusot, he called France’s nuclear weapons and atomic energy industry “the cornerstone of our strategic autonomy,” and said the nuclear sector plays a role in France’s “status as a great power.”

One of his advisers noted that having an aircraft carrier also helps France project its global influence. Only a few countries in the world maintain the huge, costly vessels.

The new French aircraft carrier will be about 70,000 tons and 300 meters long, roughly 1.5 times the size of the Charles de Gaulle, which has been deployed for international military operations in Iraq and Syria in recent years, according to French presidential advisers.

Its catapults will be electro-magnetic, and American-made, and the ship will be designed to accommodate next-generation warplanes and serve until around 2080, the advisers said.

They didn’t provide a price tag but French media estimate it will cost around 7 billion euros ($8.5 billion).

Macron also pledged 500 million euros in investment in the nuclear industry and a separate fund to modernize it, and promised “progress” on the persistent problem of how to permanently get rid of nuclear waste. Nuclear reactors provide the majority of France’s electricity, but many reactors are aging and delays have dogged new-generation reactors.

Macron, who is co-hosting a global video summit on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord, said France also must do more to develop wind, solar, hydrogen and other renewable energies.

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