France to the US: Leave the tiny nuclear reactors to us

By Nicolas Camut, Victor Jack | 05/31/2024 06:23 AM EDT

The EU invited US firms to help develop these futuristic atomic reactors. But Paris is wary of having Americans “stick their noses in.”

Engineers walk in the Exocet installation of the Poseidon departement during a press visit to CEA Cadarache in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southern France.

French President Emmanuel Macron is betting big on mini-nukes. Nicolas Tucat/AFP via Getty Images

BRUSSELS — The latest global atomic race is pitting two nuclear powerhouses against each other: France and the United States.

The European Union this week unveiled a new industrial alliance to kick-start the manufacturing of so-called small nuclear reactors — a product that barely exists but that proponents insist could revolutionize nuclear power.

For Europe, the idea is simple: Join forces to beat competitors such as China and Russia in the race to develop these bite-size siblings of conventional atomic plants. The hope is that the miniature reactors could eventually be made on an automobile-style conveyor belt at a fraction of the cost and time that have historically burdened nuclear plants.


But for France, there’s a major problem with Europe’s plan: America’s involved.