France’s ‘impossible’ task to resume nuclear plants poses risk to UK

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Electricite de France SA is struggling to come up with a plan to restart a quarter of its nuclear plants by December. One of its grid operators, RTE, warned on Friday that shortfalls could run well into January.

And earlier this month, EDF announced that its production figures for 2022 would be lower than previously forecast.

Two of EDF’s nuclear reactors will delay restarting due to corrosion problems. According to French reports, two other reactors also shut down for corrosion problems, bringing the total number of reactors facing this issue up to 15.

The two reactors, Penly 2 in Seine-Maritime and Cattenom 3 in Moselle, were already shut down for inspections. While they were set to be over the next few weeks, these flaws meant that the sites would remain shut down for at least until next year.

According to Franceinfo, these are among the most powerful reactors in France’s nuclear fleet, generating 1,330 and 1,300 MW of electricity.

As of Friday, 25 of EDF’s 56 reactors were offline, making its atomic output about 25 percent below historic levels and pushing energy prices up for the rest of Europe.

In a warning to French citizens and European partners, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said in Parliament on Wednesday: “I know that EDF’s teams are extremely mobilised.

“We must however be prepared for any situation, including the possibility of targeted blackouts this winter.”

France relies on nuclear energy form more than two-thirds of its power.

The country is not heavily dependent on natural gas, Russian or otherwise, getting most of its energy supplies from nuclear power, which generates 70 percent of the country’s electricity.

Emeric de Vigan, vice president at consultant Kpler, believes it is “impossible in terms of resources, both for EDF and for the nuclear safety authority” to return to normality within four weeks.

Experts have raised the alarm over energy shortages in Britain this winter, which could make National Grid’s emergency blackout plans more likely given the issues faced in France.

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Power prices for January are expected to surge above €1,000 (£870) per megawatt hour as EDF has warned that its nuclear power output could plummet again.

France has traditionally provided Britain with cheap power from its nuclear fleet in the past, exported to the UK via interconnectors linking the two nations. It had been expected that closer cooperation between the two nations could help the UK avoid an emergency scenario where it fails to shore up enough energy imports this winter.

National Grid has drawn up emergency plans for this “unlikely worst-case scenario”, in which planned three-hour rolling blackouts would be conducted in order to balance the grid. The Government has reportedly “war-gamed” an even more severe scenario, accounting for a seven-day period of blackouts in the event that the UK can’t shore up enough energy imports from Europe.

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While closer cooperation with France looked as though it may have helped Britain swerve this outcome, France’s issues could now make energy shortages in Britian all the more likely.

Kathryn Porter, an energy consultant at Watt Logic, said the issues at EDF would “restrict the generating capacity available at the coldest time of the year”, posing a huge concern over energy shortages.

She told the Telegraph earlier in November: “That is being reflected in what you are seeing with prices. Markets are pricing in the higher chance of electricity shortages in the early part of next year.”

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