Fessenheim to close as Flamanville 3 completes hot testing

20 February 2020

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said yesterday that the two-unit Fessenheim nuclear plant will be shut down at the end of June, with unit 1 set to close on 22 February.

A statement said the decision was “the first phase” of France’s energy strategy set out in 2018 by President Emmanuel Macron. The plan calls for a re-balancing of nuclear energy and renewables.

Coal plants are set to close by 2022 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the statement noted.

Macron said in 2018 that 14 of the 58 nuclear reactors now operating at 19 plants will be shut down by 2035. France will also cap the amount of nuclear electricity at 50% by that date.

The closure of Fessenheim will not impact French electricity supply in the near term, said grid operator RTE on 18 February, but added that strains could emerge after 2022.

“This closure is offset by the planned commissioning of the Landivisiau gas-fired plant, the development of renewable energies, and the building of two high-voltage power cables with Britain and Italy,” RTE said.

However, it added that as from 2022, the planned closure of France’s remaining coal plants, and the delay in commissioning the EPR at Flamanville 3, means that security of supply could be strained and will be under surveillance.  

Flamanville 3 completes pre-operational testing

Meanwhile, pre-operational testing was completed at Flamanville 3 on 17 February. The tests - which began on 21 September 2019 - aim to simulate the temperatures and pressures which the reactor's systems will be subjected to during normal operation.

Normal operating conditions were achieved, with water in the primary circuit being at a temperature of 303ºC and a pressure of 154 bars.

Cooling of the primary circuit using the secondary circuit was also achieved, as well as commissioning of the steam generators. Power outage tests were also carried out.

Earlier this month, the turbine of Flamanville 3 was operated for the first time at nominal speed - 1500 revolutions per minute.

"It has been more than 20 years since we had carried out hot tests on a [nuclear] power plant starting up in France," said Sébastien Bachère, director of commissioning at Flamanville 3.

"This is a defining step for the EPR project. With more than 1000 tests carried out, 10,000 design criteria tested and a compliance rate of more than 95%, we can be satisfied with the results of these tests."

The 1600MWe Flamanville 3 EPR unit began construction in 2007 and was expected to cost €3bn and to be ready in four years. Start-up of the reactor is now scheduled for 2022, and the cost of the project has been reassessed to €12.4bn.

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