Nuclear Politics

France / Macron Announces Ambitious Plans For Up To 14 New Nuclear Reactors

By David Dalton
10 February 2022

First EPR2 plant could be online by 2035 and existing plants could have lifetimes extended
Macron Announces Ambitious Plans For Up To 14 New Nuclear Reactors
Mr Macron made the announcement about new nuclear reactors during a speech on energy policy at Belfort.
France’s president Emmanuel Macron has announced plans to relaunch the country’s commercial nuclear programme with the construction of at least six new nuclear power reactors – and the possibility of eight more for a total of 14 – if he is reelected in elections in two months.

Mr Macron said the new plants would be built and operated by state-controlled energy company EDF and that tens of billions of euros in public financing would be mobilised to finance the projects and safeguard EDF’s finances.

“What our country needs, and the conditions are there, is the rebirth of France’s nuclear industry,” Mr Macron said, unveiling his new nuclear strategy in the eastern industrial town of Belfort.

He also announced he wanted to extend the lifespan of older nuclear plants to 50 years or more from 40 years currently, provided it was safe.

The first new reactor, an evolution of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) known as the EPR2, would come online by 2035, Mr Macron said. Studies for a further eight reactors beyond the initial half-dozen new plants would be launched, he added.

France will also increase its solar power capacity tenfold by 2050 to more than 100 GW and target building 50 offshore wind farms with a combined capacity of at least 40 GW. Capacity from land-based wind turbines, which face strong public resistance, would only be doubled by 2050, he said.

Mr Macron said the state would assume its responsibilities in securing EDF’s finances, indicating that the government may inject fresh capital into the 84% state-owned firm.

Mr Macron made the announcement at the factory in Belfort where Arabelle turbines, used in French nuclear plants are made.

The turbines were produced by Alstom, which was sold to the US giant General Electric (GE) in 2015 when Mr Macron was economy minister.

After a long period of negotiation, EDF announced on Thursday that a deal has been signed to have exclusivity in the purchase of part of GE’s nuclear activity known as “Steam Power”, which includes the Arabelle turbines, according to a joint statement.

“To guarantee France’s energy independence and achieve our objectives, in particular carbon neutrality in 2050, we will for the first time in decades relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country,” Mr Macron said in a televised address to the nation in November.

In the address, Mr Macron said France would build new nuclear power reactors to help the country lessen its dependence on foreign countries for its energy supplies, meet global warming targets and keep prices under control.

Mr Macron said he will revive the French nuclear programme with the construction of new EPR-type nuclear reactors – known as the EPR2 – in the coming years.

“We will for the first time in decades restart the construction of nuclear reactors in our country and continue to develop renewable energy,” he said.

This will guarantee France’s energy independence, guarantee its electricity supply and help France achieve key objectives including carbon neutrality in 2050, Mr Macron said. “If we want to pay reasonable rates for our energy, we must continue to save energy and invest in the production of carbon-free energy on our soil.”

That announcement followed a report by French grid operator RTE which said next generation nuclear reactors offer an affordable path to shifting the country’s energy mix away from fossil fuels and make the aim of carbon neutrality by 2050 achievable.

Previously, the government had said it would not launch any new EPR reactor projects until state-owned EDF’s delayed Flamanville-3 EPR is completed. Last month EDF announced another rescheduling of the project and said costs have risen by €300m.

The company said fuel loading date for the 1,630-MW EPR unit in Normandy, northwest France, had been pushed back from the end of 2022 to the second quarter of 2023. EDF now estimates the total cost of the project at €12.7bn, an increase of €300m compared to the most recent previous estimate of €12.4bn.

French media reported in October that the impact of Europe’s gas crisis on energy prices, and the knock-on effect on household spending power, had accelerated Paris’s decision to commit to the new EPR technology.

France has 56 commercial nuclear power reactors that provide about 70% of its electricity, the highest share of any country.

In October, Mr Macron said that by 2030 France must be a leader in carbon-free power production with one small modular reactor in operation and nuclear plants used to produce clean hydrogen through electrolysis.

He said Europe will never have enough renewable energy capacity to produce sufficient green hydrogen and that France’s nuclear plants are a major asset for doing this.

He said France would build an SMR as well as two “megafactories” for the production of green hydrogen – all by the end of the decade.

The chairman of state utility and nuclear operator EDF, Jean-Bernard Lévy, said in an interview for Politico that the deployment of six new EPR units between 2035 and 2045 would help France meet its climate neutrality targets while supporting the accelerated development of renewables.

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