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New EPRs would spur older plant closures – French minister

EDF will have to close its older nuclear power stations at a faster pace if France sees more development of new third-generation reactors, according to energy minister Francois de Rugy.

“If we want to build new EPRs [European pressurised reactors], it would mean that we would have to close old plants even more quickly,” he told the French RMC radio on Wednesday, adding that no decision had been made for new nuclear power plants for the time being.

De Rugy, who was appointed last week to succeed Nicolas Hulot, said that EDF had to prove EPR technology “is viable” before the government would consider building another plant in addition to the one under construction at Flamanville.

His comments come after a classified government report recommended the construction of six new EPRs, with the first unit commissioned in 2035, as reported by French daily Les Echos.

However, the government is currently reviewing ways to reduce its nuclear power capacity to 50% from the current level of around 75%, with the government expected to reveal more details this autumn when it presents a provisional version of its energy roadmap.

ASN will decide
Asked whether the country’s next energy roadmap (PPE) would list the reactors to close, de Rugy said: “It is the [nuclear safety authority] ASN who will say which are the oldest reactors, the ones that need the most work and the most investment to extend their lifespan and so those are the ones we could decide to close.”

Hulot in July insisted on the need to include a precise schedule of plants to be closed in the PPE.

ASN plans to give an initial opinion on the oldest reactors’ life extensions at the end of 2020. Its deputy director, Julien Collet, told reporters last week that “it is up to the operator to decide [which plants to close]”.

“ASN is ready to give its opinion to the government based on proposals from the operator [EDF]. Today we have no government referral in relation to that,” he said.

EDF is building France’s first EPR unit at Flamanville, but the project has been beset by delays and cost overruns. In July, the utility postponed fuel loading at the reactor by a year to the fourth quarter of 2019, with the unit now expected to reach full capacity by mid-2020.

The estimated cost of the reactor has more than tripled to EUR 11bn.

Source: Montel News