The French government has confirmed that, after completing its assessment of the implications, the 1200 MWe Superphénix fast reactor will be closed down and decommssioned. The costs related to closing the plant would be about FF 16.5 billion ($1.75 billion), although others put it much higher. The decision, which honours a previous pledge of the Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, is considered a victory of the Green Party and the price paid for them to join the governing coalition.
Electricité de France said that it had already begun planning to put into effect the permanent shut down of the plant which is located at Creys Malville. The FF 16.5 billion cost covers dismantling the plant, other post closure operations, reprocessing of two cores and processing the sodium, and repayment of debts.
The suddenness of the decision means that no regulatory framework nor operational procedures exist to allow the closure to begin. A government decree which will set out the conditions to be applied to ensure the safety of the installation for closure work, is expected to be issued during the second half of 1998. The government has , however, decided to allow the Phénix reactor to operate.
Superphénix is operated by NERSA, a consortium of Euro-pean utilities led by EDF which holds 51% of the shares. The other main players are the SBK group (including Belgian, Dutch and German power companies) and Italy’s ENEL who must be compensated for the project’s abandonment.
EDF will be paying for the majority of the costs for which substantial provisions have already been made. The utility points out that most of the costs would have to be met no matter when the plant was shut down.
Besides fuel unloading, which will begin next year, substantial time will be required to remove and process the sodium. The actual plant dismantling won’t start until about 2005.
The opposition parties are expected to continue to oppose this action making a number of demands including that parliament has the final say in the matter. Other legal motions are also expected.
The trade unions representing the workers said that they will continue to fight to keep the plant open.