Agnes Pannier-Runacher, France's Energy MinisterFrench state-owned utility EDF will restart all its nuclear reactors this winter, despite the fact that 32 of its 56 units are closed for maintenance or technical issues, according to France's Energy Minister, Agnes Pannier-Runacher.

Pannier-Runacher spoke after President Emmanuel Macron held a special cabinet meeting to address the French energy supply situation, coordinate efforts to reduce consumption, and prepare contingency plans in case the country faces a shortage. "EDF has committed to restart all its reactors for this winter," she told a news conference.

She said that a maximum number of reactors are currently closed for maintenance to ensure that they will be ready and available during peak demand periods this winter. "From October, each week new reactors will restart," she said. "We will closely follow with EDF those reactors that have been closed for corrosion problems."

EDF has been dealing with concerns about stress corrosion cracking, which manifests itself as fissures on pipe welds and reactor primary circuit pipes. The problem was first identified during routine checks at the 2,990MWe Civeaux NPP in 2021. More reactors were then closed for inspections and repairs. Nuclear output was further sffected when high river water temperatures forced power reductions at some units.

French nuclear fell 37% year on year in August. At least nine reactors are scheduled to return in September with another 19 units to follow in the fourth quarter, according to EDF's transparency schedule. However, on 26 August EDF postponed the restart dates for four 1,300MWe reactors at Cattenom and Penly by over five months, the equivalent of over 5TWh in lost production for the winter period.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne emphasised on 1 September: “I am really counting on EDF to ensure its restart programme in the coming weeks, in the coming months, and that would save us from having to restart a coal-fired power plant.”

Image: France's Energy Minister, Agnes Pannier-Runacher (courtesy of AFP/Eric Piermont)