The French government honors its pre-election commitment and addresses concerns raised by neighboring countries and environmental activists
On April 9th, the French Minister of Environment Segolene Royal announced the closure of the country's oldest nuclear power plant by 2020. Located in the north-east of France, near the German border, the Fessenheim plant has been operational since 1977. The government’s decree marks President Francois Hollande's campaign pledge during the 2012 presidential election to close the plant during his term, in an effort to build an alliance with the Green party. Besides, France has committed to reduce its dependence on nuclear from 78% of electricity generation to 50% by 2025 and increase its use of renewables.
The deal with EDF
In January, the plant operator EDF voted to approve the closure of the two-unit Fessenheim next year in principle. However, on April 6th the company’s board reconsidered, deciding to not close the facility until the Flamanville-3 EPR in Normandy (a new nuclear plan also owned by EDF) begins commercial operation, in the fourth quarter of 2018 at the earliest. According to EDF, France’s energy transition law caps the amount of nuclear power at 63.2 GW, meaning that the commissioning of Flamanville-3 is dependent on the shutdown of equivalent capacity. “With this decision on the part of its board of directors, EDF is guaranteeing compliance with legislation imposing a ceiling for France’s installed nuclear electricity generation capacity, while at the same time safeguarding to the utmost the interests of the company and its customers,” said Jean-Bernard Le?vy, its chief executive. The company will be paid €490m in compensation for dismantling the plant and retraining its 850 workers.
The Fessenheim plant, with its two 880-MW pressurized-water reactor units, has been the subject of complaints regarding safety from the German and Swiss governments. In April 2014, one of its reactors had to be shut down after water was discovered leaking from several places, but in order to do that, boron was added to the pressure vessel, an unprecedented procedure in Western Europe according to experts. The incident was played down by the French authorities and was not reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency in full detail. Even an official report from France's nuclear authority ASN did not contain information on the need to use boron.
Source: Deutsche Welle