French auditors' court assesses cost of nuclear upgrades

13 February 2016

France's official court of auditors, the Cour des Comptes, said in its annual report on 10 February that investments of €100bn ($112bn) will be needed by 2030 to maintain Electricite de France's (EDF's) fleet of 58 commercial reactors, although it said the estimate includes "many uncertainties".

EDF said in 2015 it would need to invest €55bn up to 2025 to upgrade the fleet to comply with new post-Fukushima safety standards set by regulator Autorite de Surete Nucleaire and to extend the lives of the units beyond 40 years.

The court said there is no contradiction in the two sets of figures given the different timeframes. EDF's figure is solely for the amount of planned investment and, unlike its own, does not include operating costs. The court said it estimates investments totalling €74.73bn are required between 2014 and 2030 and that operating costs during that period will come to about €25.16bn. "Despite uncertainties identified to date estimated at approximately €13.3bn", the court said, "the effects of this programme on the production cost of nuclear electricity are limited."

However, the court noted that France's energy transition law, which requires the share of nuclear in France's energy production to be reduced from 75% to 50% could force EDF to close up to a third of its reactors by 2025. The court estimates that this could mean the closure of 17-20 reactors if power consumption and exports remain at current levels. "Only a very significant increase in electricity consumption or exports of power could limit the number of shutdowns, but experts are not forecasting this to happen."

In January 2012, the Cour des Comptes said that because investing in new nuclear generating capacity or any other form of energy would be too expensive and come online too late, extending the operating lives of existing reactors would be the best option. France's reactors were originally only licensed to operate for 30 years, but they are now subject to a ten-year review to allow for their continued operation. ASN said it had found no generic elements that would compromise their safety over a 40-year operating life.

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