France Chooses Site for Two New EPR Nuclear Units

Officials in France have announced the existing Bugey nuclear power station near Lyon will be the site of two new EPR reactors. The government of President Emmanuel Macron last year said the country could add more than a dozen new reactors to the country’s energy mix over the next several years.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the minister for France’s energy transition, said Bugey had been chosen because it was “more ready” for construction to begin than Tricastin, another site considered for the reactors. French officials have said nuclear power is a major part of the country’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The choice of the Bugey site was announced after a July 19 meeting of the country’s Nuclear Policy Council, which is led by Macron. It comes after earlier announcements that two reactors would be installed at both Penly on the coast of Normandy, and at Gravelines, located between Dunkirk and Calais. All the reactors being considered are of the EPR, or European Pressurized  Reactor, design—in this case known as EPR2.

The EPR2, being developed by EDF (France’s state-owned energy group) and Framatome, is considered a simplified design of the EPR reactor. EDF officials have said the reactor would incorporate design, construction, and commissioning experience derived from the EPR reactor. The design also would look at the operating experience of reactors currently in service.

Adding More Reactors

Macron early in 2022 said the time was right for France to build more reactors in a country that has long relied on nuclear energy for the bulk of its electricity. France has 56 operating reactors, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, second only to the U.S., which has more than 90 reactors in commercial operation.

There are four 900-MW reactors currently in service at the Bugey power station in France. Officials plan to add two more reactors to the site in the next few years. Source: EDF

Macron in February of last year said operating licenses for all existing reactors in France should be extended, as long as safety is not compromised, and at the time unveiled a proposal for six new EPR2 reactors. That proposal also included an option for another eight EPR2 reactors that would be built in subsequent years.

France’s state audit office has said it EDF must ensure the financing and profitability of the EPR2 reactor before starting construction of any such units in the country. EDF in May 2021 submitted its EPR2 construction proposal to French government officials.

The NPC after its meeting last week said the Bugey site was chosen “with the support of local elected representatives,” and said it means “the location of the first phase of the EPR2 construction program has now been determined,” after the previous announcements for Penly and Gravelines.

Four Existing Units at Bugey

The Bugey power station today has four 900-MW pressurized water reactors, known as Units 2, 3, 4, and 5, that entered commercial operation in 1978 and 1979. Unit 1 at Bugey, a gas-cooled reactor that was grid-connected in 1972, was closed in 1994.

A statement from government officials said, “Technical studies and analyses will continue on the Tricastin site with a view to hosting future nuclear reactors,” which presumably could be the first two of the next eight outlined in the government’s nuclear program.

EDF in a statement said it is “engaged in the authorization procedures required for the launch of the construction of the first pair of EPR2 reactors at Penly, as well as the administrative procedures for its completion and its link-up to the electricity grid.” EDF has said it expected to begin initial construction work at Penly by the middle of 2024.

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

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