French Nuclear Power Crisis Frustrates Europe’s Push to Quit Russian Energy
- Jun 20, 2022 3:06 pm GMT
France’s nuclear power generating industry is often cited as a success story of what is possible with a commitment to nuclear technology. Those who tout France’s nuclear development as a model to be emulated will have a hard time rationalizing the present ongoing failure of that system.
According to this:
"Around half of France’s atomic fleet, the largest in Europe, has been taken offline as a storm of unexpected problems swirls around the nation’s state-backed nuclear power operator, Électricité de France, or EDF."
The failures could not have come at a worse time. Those who think that nuclear power provides affordable, reliable, safe low carbon power might want to think again:
"As the European Union moves to cut ties to Russian oil and gas in the wake of Moscow’s war on Ukraine, France has been betting on its nuclear plants to weather a looming energy crunch. Nuclear power provides about 70 percent of France’s electricity, a bigger share than any other country in the world.But the industry has tumbled into an unprecedented power crisis as EDF confronts troubles ranging from the mysterious emergence of stress corrosion inside nuclear plants to a hotter climate that is making it harder to cool the aging reactors."
"The outages at EDF, Europe’s biggest electricity exporter, have sent France’s nuclear power output tumbling to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, pushing French electric bills to record highs just as the war in Ukraine is stoking broader inflation."
"France faces the unsettling prospect of initiating rolling blackouts this winter and having to import power."
The future of France’s nuclear industry does not appear to be a bright:
"EDF, already 43 billion euros (about $45 billion) in debt, is also exposed to a recent deal involving the Russian state-backed nuclear power operator, Rosatom, that may heap fresh financial pain on the French company. The troubles have ballooned so quickly that President Emmanuel Macron’s government has hinted that EDF may need to be nationalized."
Nationalization? That means that taxpayers get the bill.
As everywhere else, new French installations suffer huge cost overruns and/or long delays.
"An EDF-made pressurized water reactor at Hinkley Point, in southwest England, won’t start operating until 2027 — four years behind schedule and too late to help Britain’s swift turn from Russian oil and gas. Finland’s newest EDF nuclear power plant, which started operating last month, was supposed to be completed in 2009."
And, as pointed out on June 16 in Energy Central, France´s newest "next generation" generator, Flamanville 3:
"...was originally expected to cost 3.3 billion euros and start operations in 2012."
"It is now due to start loading fuel - one of the final stages before the start up of a plant - in the second quarter of 2023, and at the latest count the estimated cost had risen to 12.7 billion euros."
In existing plants, there are serious safety issues:
"Inspections unearthed alarming safety issues — especially corrosion and faulty welding seals on crucial systems used to cool a reactor’s radioactive core. That was the situation at the Chinon atomic plant, one of France’s oldest, which produces 6 percent of EDF’s nuclear power."
"EDF is now scouring all its nuclear facilities for such problems. A dozen reactors will stay disconnected for corrosion inspections or repairs that could take months or years. Another 16 remain offline for reviews and upgrades."
"Others are having to cut power production because of climate change concerns: Rivers in the south of France, including the Rhône and the Gironde, are warming earlier each year, often reaching temperatures in the spring and summer too warm to cool reactors."
And what about nuclear’s vaunted reliability?
"Today, French nuclear production is at its lowest level since 1993, generating less than half the 61.4 gigawatts that the fleet is capable of producing…Even if some reactors resume in the summer, French nuclear output will be 25 percent lower than usual this winter — with alarming consequences."
So much for the French "model."
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.