Nuclear Politics

France / Nuclear Society Urges Government To Commit To New-Build

By David Dalton
18 May 2020

Six new EPR 2 plants would ‘stimulate economy and help recovery from pandemic’
Nuclear Society Urges Government To Commit To New-Build
The Flamanville-3 EPR is the only commercial nuclear plant under constrction inn France. Photo courtesy EDF.
A commitment by the government to build a series of new EPR nuclear power reactors in France would stimulate the country’s economy as it recovers from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic with domestic companies likely to take an 80% share of the project, the French nuclear energy society SFEN said in a position paper.

SFEN said a new-build programme would have a strong ripple effect on the rest of the economy. In France, each euro invested in nuclear generates €2.5 in the rest of the economy and particularly in areas where nuclear facilities are built, SFEN said.

Press reports in France in October 2019
said the government had asked state-controlled power utility EDF to prepare for a new start for nuclear energy with plans to construct six Generation III EPR 2 units over the next 15 years.

The EPR 2 is the successor to the EPR, which is under construction at Flamanvlle-3 in France, Olkiluoto in Finland and Hinkley Point in England.

Quoting a letter sent by environment minister Elisabeth Borne and finance minister Bruno Le Maire to EDF’s chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy, Le Monde said the company would be required to build three pairs of EPR reactors on three sites.

In a separate report days later Le Monde quoted Mr Lévy as saying “it is clear” that France is preparing to build new nuclear power plants and the best way to deliver them while bringing down costs is to build them in pairs.

Le Monde also reported that EDF had estimated it would cost at least €46bn to build six EPR nuclear power reactors. Each 1,600-MW reactor would cost €7.5bn to €7.8bn, based on building the units in pairs with financing over about 20 years, Le Monde reported. This would include “dismantling provisions” of €400m and provisions for “uncertainties” of €500m for each reactor.

The government has not confirmed plans for new nuclear, but SFEN said the project “has already taken several key steps to allow a decision in mid-2021”.

Ms Borne said last year that the decision whether or not to build new EPR plants would not be taken before the end of 2022, pushing it beyond the date of the country’s next general election.

During a hearing of the commission for sustainable development Ms Borne said there would be no decision on new units before the commissioning of the Flamanville-3 EPR plant under construction in northern France, where she said fuel loading is planned for the end of 2022.

“Whether we are looking at 100% renewables or a percentage of new nuclear, we want to consider all the elements, including technical, economic,” Ms Borne said. “On such important subjects, we must make rational, reasoned decisions, and that is the objective of the various studies that have been launched,” she said.

An energy plan published by the government last year called for four to six nuclear reactors, including Fessenheim-1 and -2, 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. Fessenheim-1, was shut down in February 2020.

The plan appeared to hedge its bets on the rest of the country’s fleet of 57 commercial reactors, which provide about 70% of the country’s electricity.

It said decisions will be made on whether to close or extend the operating permits of “certain nuclear reactors beyond their fourth 10-yearly inspection”.

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