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Fessenheim closure no longer tied to EPR start-up – update

Power

04 Oct 2018 12:10

Paris

04 Oct 2018 12:10

(Montel) The closure of France’s oldest nuclear plant – Fessenheim (1.6 GW) – is no longer tied to the commissioning date of the third-generation reactor being built at Flamanville (1.6 GW), the country’s energy minister said on Thursday.

“Today we are forced not to do both operations at the same time because we have no date for [the] Flamanville start-up. Neither EDF nor [the nuclear safety authority] ASN are able to give a date,” Francois de Rugy said on France Info radio.

He also reiterated the government’s plans to close the two Fessenheim reactors “during this mandate, by 2022”, but he refused to be more precise.

Initially the government had planned Fessenheim’s closure to coincide with the launch of Flamanville – currently expected in 2019 – due to security of supply issues.

Ongoing delays
However, the commissioning of the European pressurised reactor at Flamanville has been beset with delays, with operator EDF postponing fuel loading by a year after discovering faulty welding. The plant’s full start-up is now expected in the second quarter of 2020. 

The French utility also announced the total cost of construction had risen by EUR 400m to EUR 10.9bn.

Yet there is a risk of further delays after the ASN said on Wednesday that “significant technical work remains to be done” at the site. The nuclear watchdog asked EDF to extend its review of the quality of the welds to other equipment at the reactor.

EDF declined to comment.

“Bedridden plant”
Fessenheim was unlikely to continue operating beyond 2022, Sebastien Lecornu, secretary of state at the energy ministry, told the France Bleu Alsace radio on Thursday.

Lecornu, who is expected to present a conversion plan for the Fessenheim site later today, pointed out that EDF had not made any significant investments in the ageing reactor to extend its lifetime. 

“It's a bedridden plant,” said Charlotte Mijeon, spokeswoman at anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucléaire. 

“It is useless to carry out aggressive maintenance. We should give a clear signal for the workers and the conversion of the site because now we’re making them wait.”

(Updates the story published at 10:55 CET with comments from Sebastien Lecornu and Charlotte Mijeon.)

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