France debates merits of cutting nuclear generation

1 February 2018


French state-owned utility EDF plans to keep most of its 58 nuclear reactors in operation until they are 50 years old, before embarking on a gradual shutdown from 2029, Philippe Sasseigne, EDF’s head of nuclear generation said on 20 January. However, this could cause tension with Energy and Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, who wants to reduce the share of nuclear power in line with stated government policy.

The previous government of Francois Hollande had pledged to reduce the share of nuclear in power generation to 50% by 2025, from 75%, but President Emmanuel Macron’s government has pushed back the target by ten years. The government has also said that EDF must shut down Fessenheim nuclear plant once the new Flamanville 3 EPR comes online.

“We have [an] objective to keep our other reactors running until the age of 50, which will take us to the first shut-down from 2029. From 2029 to 2035, a number of reactors will be halted at the 50-year mark,” Sasseigne told Reuters. It would make sense to continue running the reactors because EDF had already started upgrading works on some units, he added.

The government is discussing the first draft of its “multi-annual energy plan” (PPE) for the periods 2019 to 2023 and 2024 and 2028 with the nuclear industry, energy specialists and renewable energy activists. The plan is due by the end of June. France will decide by the end of this year how many nuclear reactors it wants to close.  Sasseigne said reducing the nuclear share in a hurry would increase France’s carbon dixoide emissions, endanger the security of power supply and put jobs at risk.

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