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News Extra: France to close 14 nuclear reactors by 2035 - Macron

03 December 2018

President Emmanuel Macron said on November 27 that France would shut down 14 of the 58 nuclear reactors currently in operation by 2035, of which six will be closed by 2028. The total includes the previously announced shutdown of France's two oldest reactors in Fessenheim, eastern France, which Macron said was now set for summer 2020.

Fessenheim nuclear power station - Shutterstock
Fessenheim nuclear power station - Shutterstock

In a speech laying out the country's energy policies for the coming years, Macron said that "reducing the role of nuclear energy does not mean renouncing it".
France currently relies on nuclear power for nearly 72% of its electricity needs, and has a target of reducing this to 50% by 2030 as more renewable energy sources come on stream.
In June 2014, following a national energy debate, the last government ruled the country's nuclear generating capacity would be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe, and when he was elected, Macron promised to respect this target. However, he has said French reductions in nuclear power must be at a pace which allows the country to retain energy sovereignty.
The 14 reactors, all of 900 MWe capacity, will be shut down by 2035. France's two oldest reactors - units 1 and 2 at the Fessenheim plant in eastern France - will close in the spring of 2020, he said. Two further reactors will be shut down in 2025/2026, with two more following in 2027-2028. The remaining reactors would close by 2035. Macron said there would be no complete closure of any existing nuclear power plant site.
The closure schedule will depend on the transition of France's energy mix, including the planned increase of renewable energy sources and the expansion of interconnection capacity with neighbouring countries. Macron said reactors would only be shut on the condition that "security of supply is ensured". In addition, neighbouring countries will need to accelerate their energy transition, reduce their generating capacity from coal-fuelled plants and "massively" develop renewables, "which would lead to low prices for electricity in the European markets".
A press release from the Ministry for an Ecological and Solidarity Transition said: "The government will maintain a dialogue with EDF in order to plan this decrease [in nuclear capacity] and designate sites on which the closures will be made."
It said closures should take place primarily at the sites housing the country's oldest reactors: Blayais, Bugey, Chinon, Cruas, Dampierre, Gravelines, Saint-Laurent and Tricastin. However, it will be up to EDF to specify which reactors will be closed. "The final confirmation of the reactors to be shut down will take place at least three years before the date of effective closure of the chosen reactors," the ministry said.
Macron said he has requested state-owned EDF to "work on the development of a new nuclear programme". The government will lead a work programme with EDF on industrial capacity issues of the nuclear industry, "economic optimisation" of the EPR reactor design, storage of waste from a new reactor fleet, financing models, as well as regulatory and legal procedures. A decision to proceed with nuclear new build is to be taken in 2021.
EDF has been building the first EPR reactor at Flamanville on the Atlantic coast of northwest France since 2007. It was originally scheduled to go online in 2012 but the project has been plagued by technical problems and budget overruns and the latest forecast start date is 2020.
Macron also announced that France will close its four remaining coal-fired power plants by 2022. "This is a pioneering measure. Because the reality is that, all over the world, alas, not only are we not closing, but we are opening up new coal-fired power plants."

He also announced that support for renewables will increase from the current 5 billion euros to between 7 and 8 billion per year. Onshore wind capacity will be trebled and photovoltaic capacity increased five-fold by 2030. Offshore wind will also be developed.

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