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France set to push nuclear closures beyond 2029 – NGOs

PowerPolicy

24 Oct 2018 10:49

France's Fessenheim nuclear plant. Photo: Wikipedia

France's Fessenheim nuclear plant. Photo: Wikipedia

Paris

24 Oct 2018 10:49

(Montel) Environmental campaigners fear the French government will not close any nuclear reactors before 2029, apart from those already slated for the axe at Fessenheim, in line with demands by EDF, they said on Wednesday.

The government will likely emphasise the battle against climate change in order justify a decision to keep 56 of France’s 58 reactors, which emit very almost no CO2, in service until 2029, anti-nuclear campaigners and experts told Montel

The general public could « easily accept » such a choice, given demands for more action on climate change in the wake of the unexpected resignation in September of former ecology minister, Nicolas Hulot, said Anne Bringault, energy transition coordinator at Cler and Climate Action Network

“Absurd” choice
Yet keeping reactors in service for another 10 years « would be absurd...We will put ourselves in a situation where we will have to close three, four or five (reactors) per year after 2029,” said independent energy expert, Yves Marignac.

France faces the “usual fait-accompli strategy with a self-fulfilling prophecy that it is too difficult to shut down nuclear power plants,” said Charlotte Mijeon, spokeswoman for Sortir du nucleaire. And this despite a law voted in 2015 carrying a target to cut French nuclear use to 50% of total power consumption from 75% currently.

By 2028, some 40 reactors will have reached or exceeded 40 years of age, Mijeon said, adding,​ “the cocktail of ageing plants, poor maintenance, and anomalies may hold surprises and it will mean extremely heavy (maintenance) work at a high cost.”

November decision
The comments come as the French government prepares to release a draft energy road map, or PPE, that should say how it intends to meet the targeted nuclear cut. That decision is now expected in November.

The government may present a PPE with a trajectory stretching until 2035, rather than 2028, to include the goal of cutting nuclear use to 50% by then, as well as the possibility of linking reactor closures to start-ups of new-generation reactors, campaigners said.

France is also mulling splitting EDF’s nuclear activities into a separate entity with the firm’s debt currently standing at EUR 33bn. And this could be another motive for postponing reactor closures, said Marignac.

"The bottom line [before a new structure is established] is to ensure no negative signals are sent to the markets, meaning no decision to close reactors in the short term,“ he said.

The government was studying “all solutions” concerning the structure of EDF, including the status quo, French ecology minister, François de Rugy said earlier this month.

NGOs were not invited to a meeting later Wednesday at France Elysee Palace, chaired by President Emmanuel Macron, with energy players, including the bosses of EDF and of Total, they said.

Under its energy transition law France is due to raise the share of renewable energy in power output to 40% by 2030 although the 50% cut in nuclear use is not expected until 2035.

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