Energy Crisis Deepens as Nuclear Reactors Remain Offline in France

Major French utility Electricite de France SA (EDF) said it will again extend maintenance outages at some of its nuclear reactors by several months, meaning France will continue to import power and putting more strain on the country’s supply of electricity.

EDF has returned some nuclear units to service in the past several weeks, but has said it expects its older reactors will run well below their capacities this winter.

The utility on Dec. 19 said restart of its Penly 2 unit will be pushed back to June 11 of next year. The unit originally was scheduled to return to service on Jan. 29, 2023. The utility, in a message to France’s grid operator RTE on  Monday, said the restart of its Golfech 1 unit also has been delayed until June 11, about four months beyond its original Feb. 18 restart.

EDF also said the Cattenon 3 unit’s restart has been delayed by about one month, and will now restart March 26. The restart of the Civaux 2 unit has been pushed back from early January until Feb. 19.

EDF, France’s state-owned utility, has endured construction delays and cost overruns for its Flamanville 3 reactor. The cost of the project is now expected to be four times its original estimate, with projections of more than $14 billion.  Courtesy: EDF

France, like other European nations, is in the midst of an energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has lessened imports of natural gas from Russia. France is now importing electricity; the country traditionally has been a power exporter.

EDF officials said the operating nuclear reactors are running at less than 70% capacity. The country’s grid operator continues to warn of possible electricity shortfalls as winter continues. The utility on Dec. 16 also said it would delay the startup of a new reactor in Flamanville, in northwestern France, into 2024 as work continues on the project, which already is more than a decade beyond its original 2012 startup date.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year announced a major buildup of France’s nuclear power program. Macron said the government would help build as many as 14 new reactors to continue to reduce its carbon emissions, along with its reliance on foreign sources of energy. France has 56 nuclear reactors, which generate about 70% of the country’s power.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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