French strikes spread to nuclear sector
26 May 2016
On May 26, at least 11 of France's 58 nuclear reactors suffered outages, according to grid operator RTE, lowering output by about 5 gigawatts (GW) or 6% of the country's nuclear capacity. Members of the CGT union at all 19 of France's nuclear power stations voted on May 25 to join the strike against planned changes to the country’s labour laws, which have already paralysed much of the French fuel distribution network.
The union has been trying to choke off power and fuel supplies and hamper the public transport network in a showdown with the government, which has refused to withdraw a new law to make the country’s employment law more flexible.
EDF, which runs the nuclear plants, has a statutory obligation to provide a minimum output level of electricity, so may have to bring other plants on stream and import more from adjacent countries. During a strike in January, EDF imported 6 gigawatts of power - equivalent to about six nuclear plants - from neighbouring countries.
Nearly 10% of EDF's staff were participating in the strike, according to the company. Oil refineries and railways have been brought to a halt in the current unrest. The SNCF state railway company said that upwards of two-thirds of national, regional and local rail connections were operating.
With dockworkers striking at the southern port of Marseille, the number of ships waiting at sea to offload oil, gas and chemicals rose to 21 from what would normally be about five, the port authority said.