Strikes delay restart of French reactors

13 October 2022

A representative of France's FNME-CGT (National Federation of Mines and Energy) trade union has revealed that some workers at EDF's nuclear plants had resumed their strike over salaries, delaying maintenance work on eight reactors. These include three at the Cruas NPP, two each at the Cattenom and Tricastin NPPs and one at Bugey NPP. However, the strike is not reducing power supply at operating reactors, FNME added.

FNME representative official Viginie Neumayer told Reuters that the the union had also sent a message of support to striking workers at refineries and petrol depots owned by TotalEnergies and Exxon Mobil after the French government started ordering staff at the Exxon Mobil fuel depot back to work following weeks of refinery strikes over pay and cost of living. The government said it was requisitioning some staff at the Gravenchon-Port Jerome depot run by Exxon's Esso France business, where the CGT union remains on strike despite an agreement between management and other unions over pay.

The CGT said it would challenge the requisition notifications in court once it had received them. While the right to strike is enshrined in France's constitution, the government can requisition a minimum number of staff needed to sustain a service in certain circumstances, although the move can be disputed.

The CGT called for support from workers in other sectors and there were signs of that happening In a press release, posted on the union's social networks, the FNME-CGT indicated its full support to the refinery workers' strike. The threat of requisitions was the last straw for the FNME-CGT, which noted in its press release that these constitute "a real form of repression which would testify to a political will to stifle the strike and mobilisation".

This has seriously impacted on EDF’s plans to restart many reactors which are offline for maintenance before the end of the year. Currently French nuclear availability is at 51% of total capacity with 26 of 56 reactors offline for maintenance. Of those, 15 are waiting for inspections or repair of welds due to corrosion. Recently, the restarts of the Bugey 4 and Flamanville 2 reactors were postponed by one and two months respectively with EDF noting that repairs were taking take longer than expected. In Flamanville, the sections of piping to be installed to replace those affected by stress corrosion had arrived on site on time, but to resolder them, “additional machining” was found to be necessary.

At the beginning of September, EDF predicted more than 35GWe of nuclear power would be available on the network by the beginning of October, but this has not been realised. As of 12 October, barely 30GWe was available on the network, according to RTE data.

Strike days had previously been organised on 13 and 29 September, and on 6 October, to protest against low wages.

Image: Cruas nuclear power plant

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