France escapes the worst for this winter

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The Nuclear Safety Authority on Wednesday validated EDF’s strategy to deal with the corrosion problems that are hampering the prospects for electricity supply this winter. Currently, around fifty reactors out of 56 are shut down, including 12 for corrosion and 18 for scheduled maintenance.

France has escaped a dark scenario for its electricity supply, already very tight for next winter, the nuclear policeman having validated on Wednesday July 27 EDF’s strategy to deal with the corrosion problems affecting certain reactors.

EDF plans to check all of its reactors by 2025 by ultrasound to look for any traces of this problem which has led to the shutdown of 12 out of 56 reactors.

The group must as a priority control the most sensitive areas of the 1,450 MW reactors – the most powerful – and some of the 1,300 MW.

The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) “considers that EDF’s strategy is appropriate given the knowledge acquired on the phenomenon and the associated safety issues”, it indicates in a press release, without claiming a control schedule. tighter overall.

“However, with regard to reactor 2 of the Belleville nuclear power plant, ASN considers that the inspection of this reactor scheduled for 2024 is too late”, she specifies.

EDF “takes note” and “studies a new programming of controls for this reactor”, indicates the group in an information note.

The schedule of checks “is part of the shutdowns already scheduled for the years 2022 to 2025”, underlines the company. But “these stoppages are likely to be extended in the event of repair for total periods of up to 25 weeks”.

ASN also considers that knowledge of the phenomenon is “still evolving” and that “the inspection program will have to be adapted if the inspections or analyzes reveal new elements”.

These corrosion problems were detected or suspected at the level of the welds of the elbows of the safety injection pipes (RIS) – which allow the reactor to be cooled in the event of an accident – ​​transmitted to the primary circuit. This so-called “stress” corrosion is expressed by small cracks.

The shutdown reactor cooling circuit (RRA) of certain reactors will also be checked.

About fifty reactors currently shut down

This corrosion problem weighs down the prospects for nuclear electricity production and financial results this year for EDF, whose government has planned to renationalise 100%.

It also raised concerns for France’s electricity supply next winter. About fifty reactors out of 56 are currently shut down, including 12 for corrosion and 18 for scheduled maintenance.

From this point of view, the decision of the ASN on Wednesday does not aggravate the situation because the nuclear policeman does not demand faster checks, synonymous with reactor shutdowns, but essentially validates the EDF schedule. .

“The scenario we escape is the one where the ASN adds an additional constraint which reduces nuclear availability for the coming winter”, explains Julien Teddé, general manager of the courtier Opéra Energie. “A negative opinion from the ASN could have been bad news”, even “a disaster”, he notes.

“I find it rather reassuring that ASN is making this decision,” said Sébastien Menesplier, of the CGT Mines-Énergie, interviewed by AFP. “Given the energy situation today and that of the production fleet, so much the better that the ASN validates this, otherwise we would have been in a hell of a mess.”

Supply fears this winter come on top of other factors, starting with soaring gas prices fueled by fears of shortages amid the invasion of Ukraine, which is pulling electricity prices skyrocketing.

Prices have almost doubled in a few weeks: electricity for delivery in 2023 in France was trading on Wednesday around 500 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), against less than 300 euros in mid-June.

These futures prices no longer obey their usual economic logic but probably “anticipated severe shortages” and “a high risk premium on the French electricity market”, according to the sector regulator.

The fears are not limited to the nuclear fleet. “The real question for me is the interconnections”, while France depends on its neighbors for part of the winter, judge Julien Teddé.

“If there is a rationing of gas next winter, with in addition questions on solidarity between States, it does not seem to me completely won that the Germans agree to burn gas to produce electricity and the send to France”, he warns.

With AFP


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