Ah, the French. While I love to poke fun at them and their, um, French ways, I have to give them credit for their successful nuclear power program. There, I said it. The French do something right that isn't silly.
The New York Times ran a piece titled, "France Reaffirms Its Faith in Future of Nuclear Power" on August 17, 2008. In it, the explain how France got its act together, starting in the late 1950s, to be as close to energy independent as possible. The article states, "Nuclear power provides 77 percent of France’s electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas." Certainly, this has helped smooth out many economic bumps experienced by those countries without such an aggressive nuclear policy. Additionally, think of how clean the air is without all of those coal plants?
Did I mention that nuclear power is clean, reliable, and cost effective? Here is where France really makes nuclear the best option: "He (senior aide to Jean-Louis Borloo, the minister of ecology, sustainable development and planning) said that France’s choice for a “closed fuel cycle” — reprocessing used nuclear fuel to recover plutonium made in the reactors so it can be reused — was safer." Too bad Jimmy Carter banned fuel reprocessing in the US. Spent fuel from first use has about 95% of its active ingredient left. Hey, recycling, what an idea!
Finally, the French discovered that having a successful power program is great for their economy. In some towns, the 60-year life cycle of a nuclear power plant, "...we have economic activity for two generations.”