The two reactors at France’s oldest nuclear plant at Fessenheim will close in February and June 2020, EDF has confirmed.

EDF said, 30 September, that it has applied to the French nuclear regulator and the country's energy minister Emmanuelle Wargon for authorisation to permanently shut down the two reactors.

The closure of Fessenheim 1 is planned for 22 February 2020. Fesseheim 2 is expected to shut down on 30 June.

The dates have been brought forward from February when they were set at March and August 2020.

The Fessenheim station employs 850 EDF employees and approximately 350 permanent employees from service companies. A Franco-German mixed economy company (SEM) will be created by the end of the year, to develop the new economic zone to replace the plant. Possible projects include a metal resource recycling centre proposed by EDF, as well as photovoltaic parks and infrastructure projects.

Fessenheim's two 880MWe pressurised water reactors were commissioned in 1977 and 1978. Former French president Francois Hollande pledged during his 2012 election campaign to limit nuclear's share of power generation to 50%, down from 75%, by 2025, and to close Fessenheim by the end of his five-year term.

Current President Emmanuel Macron promised to respect Hollande's target. However, he has said French reductions in nuclear power must be at a pace which protects sovereignty. In 2018 Macron confirmed that 14 of France's 900MWe capacity reactors would be shut down by 2035 and that Fessenheim would close in the spring of 2020. The draft energy and climate bill presented in May stipulates that France will delay the planned reduction in the nuclear share to 50% from 2025 to 2035.

Photo: Fessenheim nuclear plant (Credit: EDF)