Plant Operation

Fessenheim / EDF Disconnects Unit 1 From Grid As Permanent Shutdown Begins

By Kamen Kraev
24 February 2020

880-MW PWR to retire after 42 years of commercial operation
EDF Disconnects Unit 1 From Grid As Permanent Shutdown Begins
The two-unit Fessenheim nuclear station began commercial operation in 1978. Image courtesy EDF.
French nuclear operator EDF disconnected the Fessenheim-1 nuclear power plant from the national grid on 22 February 2020 in accordance with a previously agreed shutdown schedule, a statement by the company said.

The event marks the first step in the process to permanently retire after 42 years of operation the 880-MW pressurised water reactor unit located between Colmar and Mulhouse in France's eastern Alsace region.

Last week, the French government issued an order confirming the permanent shutdown of the two-unit Fessenheim nuclear station would take place in 2020.

Fessenheim-1 was to stop operating on 22 February 2020 and its twin unit Fessenheim-2 on 30 June 2020.

In September 2019, EDF submitted an application to France’s nuclear regulator ASN and the French government for the closure of Fessenheim.

EDF said that under an agreement signed earlier with the French government the utility will receive compensation for the early closure of Fessenheim, because it is a direct result from a 2015 law on energy transition.

The government will pay about €400m over a four-year period in “initial” compensation to EDF for expenses incurred by the premature closure, including post-operational costs, taxes, dismantling and staff redeployment costs.

EDF said subsequent payments will compensate for “any loss of earnings, i.e. income from future power generation, based on Fessenheim’s previous output figures, up until 2041, calculated “ex post” on the basis of nuclear output selling prices, including observed market prices”.

Fessenheim-1 and -2, both of the French CP0 PWR design, began commercial operation in 1978. This makes them the oldest reactor units in the French nuclear fleet.

Fessenheim’s closure, a promise by then-president François Hollande, was originally scheduled for late 2016, but has been postponed several times.

The retirement of the nuclear station had been initially tied up with the start of the Flamanville-3 EPR in Normandy, but regulatory requirements have pushed back the estimated start-up date for the latter.

The current French energy plans, published in 2018, call for four to six nuclear reactors – including the two at Fessenheim – to be permanently shut down by 2028 and a cap to be placed on nuclear generation capacity of 63.2 GW, roughly where it is today.

In November 2019, French grid operator RTE called for “vigilance” on energy supply in view of France’s coal phaseout plans, Flamanville-3 delays, and the retirement of Fessenheim.

The Fessenheim nuclear plant directly employs 850 people and another 350 contractors, according to reports.

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