French President Nicolas Sarkozy (pictured right) announced today that the country will pledge €1 billion ($1.4 billion USD) to nuclear power research and development.

France will also commit €1.3 billion to renewable energy projects. Sarkozy said that the moratorium on nuclear power did not make any sense and that there were no alternatives to nuclear power that were cleaner than fossil fuels available today.

Germany recently announced that it would shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. But that country is also one of the countries most advanced in deploying solar and wind power. Germany was the largest investor in clean technology projects in Europe in 2010, investing $41.2 billion in clean technology startups, double what it invested in 2009. Switzerland, too, has said it does not plan to replace its nuclear power plants when they are no longer functional, according to The Guardian.

Concerns about nuclear power hit a crisis point when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan in March. The quake cut off power to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and a tsunami that followed took out diesel generators designed to keep power going to the plant. That meant clean water was no longer pumped into the reactor, causing the whole system to overheat.

The crisis in Japan also did not change the investing thesis about clean technology, according to a number of leading venture capitalists and researchers. Fears of a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan sparked a rally in clean-energy stocks — particularly solar power stocks. But that brief surge quickly waned and never touched the private investment community, because venture capitalists typically focus on longer-term plays.

Despite the Fukushima situation, the US government plans to continue funding nuclear power projects as part of a push to promote energy that is cleaner than that produced by fossil-fuel-burning plants. President Barack Obama and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu have also lobbied hard to bring nuclear power to the forefront as a potential alternative to fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

[Photo: Guillaume Paumier]