The nuclear industry was “bubbling with new hopes and plans” during a recent conference-cum-pep-rally in Lille, France, according to Pascal Colombani, chair of the E.U’s Atomic Energy Commission. Heartened by Finland’s recent decision to build western Europe’s first nuclear power plant in more than a decade, the nuclear industry is trying to position itself as critically important to a world increasingly concerned about energy independence and pollution. Nuclear power is the European Union’s largest single energy source for power generation, illuminating one out of three light bulbs, but many European power plants will have to be retired in the next 20 years. Given that the permitting process takes 10 to 12 years, decisions to rebuild — and the allocation of related subsidies — will have to happen soon if nuclear power is to maintain its prominence in Europe, say the nuke-boosters. Meanwhile, Japan, which gets a third of its energy from nuclear power, is not quite as gung-ho as France; in a poll published yesterday, 90 percent of surveyed Japanese citizens are fearful of an accident at a nuclear power plant.