Strikes have affected almost a third of France's nuclear reactors, a power union official said, delaying maintenance at many of them just as EDF is pushing to get some its fleet back online in time for the winter. France's nuclear output was already expected to hit a 30-year low in 2022 because of the high number of reactor outages due to corrosion issues and planned maintenance, at a time when Europe is facing an energy crisis because of sanctions on Russian energy supplies.
Power supply has also been affected with the FNME-CGT union staging rolling strikes over wages at some nuclear power plants and other energy facilities. Some 16.3% of the total workforce joined the national strike, according to EDF. On 18 October, FNME-CGT representative Virginie Neumayer told Reuters that 20 reactors out of a total of 56 had been affected by the strikes, with 17 of those facing delays to their maintenance schedules.
An agreement between all the unions in the energy and gas industry sector was signed on 19 October for the first time since 2008 and negotiations at the company level will now begin. Power grid operator RTE had said if prolonged strikes delay even further the restart of the reactors there could be "heavy consequences" for electricity supply over the winter.
An EDF spokesperson confirmed that the strikes had deferred the restart dates for unit 1 of the Cattenom NPP by 11 days to 12 November; for unit 2 of the Cruas NPP by two weeks to 13 November; and for unit 3 of the Tricastin NPP by three weeks to 14 November. Also, the restart of Bugey NPP unit 4 was pushed back four days to 1 November, Cruas unit 3 five days to 25 October, and Dampierre unit 3 three days to 27 November.
Maintenance operations are continuing on the reactors that are currently offline, according to EDF. The strike action is part of a general strike on 18 October that affected train traffic, schools and other sectors.
Image: The Tricastin nuclear power plant (courtesy of EDF)