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France to complete new reactor feasibility study by year end

13 Mar 2023 11:30



13 Mar 2023 11:30

(Montel) The French government will complete a review, aimed at assessing the feasibility of EDF’s plans to build six new-generation reactors, by the end of the year, the head of its nuclear revival programme has told Montel.

The government wanted EDF to build six units by 2042-43, with the first to be commissioned at Penly by 2035-37 and the next five at 18-month intervals after that, Joel Barre, inter-ministerial delegate for new nuclear power, said in an interview.

An initial review in 2021 put the cost at EUR 51.7bn, though the new study would consider rising inflation and feedback regarding units already in service at Taishan in China and those under construction at Flamanville and in Finland and the UK, the official said.

“Gigantic underestimation”
It would “in particular” consider the “gigantic underestimation” of the initial timetable and costs to build the new-generation European pressurised reactor (EPR) at Flamanville, which was currently 12 years behind schedule and billions over budget, Barre said.  

The timetable for the next six units was “much more realistic” with a “much” lower risk of falling behind schedule, he added.

One “big challenge” was the need for the nuclear industry to hire 10-15,000 workers per year from now on, Barre said, adding it was “key” issue that would be examined over the next four or five months.

Meanwhile, state-run operator EDF was preparing a “revised” cost estimate, expected in June, which Barre’s team would audit by the “autumn.”

The firm should reach a final investment decision at the end of 2024, he said.

“We are currently studying all the financing options but we will have to consider the reform of the electricity market and EDF’s financial trajectory,” Barre said, adding “foreign investment was not excluded.”

“In any case, when the time comes, we will have to go to the European Commission if there is a question of state-aid or competition issues,” he said.

The review of the new reactor plans comes as the ASN nuclear safety authority has ordered EDF to revise its programme of corrosion inspections at existing reactors following the discovery of a large crack at EDF’s Penly 1 (1.3 GW) in Normandy.   

No delays?
This decision should not delay the plan to start building a first EPR2 at Penly in 2027-28 however, Barre said.

When he launched the new nuclear programme last February, president Emmanuel Macron said that as well as aiming to build six new reactors by 2050, EDF was mulling plans for eight others. 

Earlier this month, energy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said France might consider building more reactors by then to replace the nation’s ageing nuclear fleet and meet a growing demand for low carbon. 

However, it would be difficult to do more by that date, Barre said in the interview.

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