PARIS, Nov 8 (Reuters) – France’s nuclear industry is prepared to construct additional third-generation EPR nuclear reactors within agreed costs and timelines should the government decide to do so, an official of state-owned utility EDF said on Monday.
“The nuclear industry is transforming and will stand ready,” Alain Tranzer, a senior engineer in charge of the EDF’s nuclear quality management.
Tranzer spoke to journalists as French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce the construction of up to six new pressurised-water reactors within the coming weeks.
French media in October reported that the impact of Europe’s gas crisis in energy prices, and the knock-on effect on household spending power six months out from France’s next presidential election, has accelerated Paris’s decision to commit to EPR technology.
The construction of new-generation nuclear reactors could also enable France to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at a “manageable” cost, according to a report by RTE, the French electricity network operator, in late October.
RTE also said that achieving future carbon neutral goals without nuclear reactors would require a scale up of renewables faster than the most dynamic electric mixes in Europe.
France’s capacities to build up new nuclear power plants have been called into question as the construction of what should become France’s first third-generation reactor in Flamanville, Normandy, has faced a series of setbacks, delaying its launch by some ten years as costs exploded.
Speaking to journalists about potential future EPR projects, Tranzer emphasised that there would be “enough wiggle room in terms of costs and scheduling for the first reactor (…) to be sure that we will be able to deliver what has been said, and then (there will be) a learning curve on the reactors that follow.”
EDF’s latest schedule for Flamanville, confirmed by Tranzer on Monday, provides for the activation of the new reactor by the end of 2022. Tranzer added that some defective weldings which had shattered EDF’s most recent timeline had now been fixed. (Reporting by Benjamin Mallet, Writing by Matthieu Protard and Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Bernadette Baum)