The outgoing French government has published a decree to repeal EDF's licence to operate the Fessenheim nuclear power plant. The plant, it said, must be shut down when the Flamanville EPR begins commercial operation, expected by 2020, as EDF has already agreed.
The Fessenheim plant (Image: EDF)
The decree - published in the Official Journal yesterday - sets out the conditions for closing Fessenheim, France's oldest nuclear power plant. It states that EDF's authorisation to operate the plant's two 880 MWe pressurized water reactors will be withdrawn from the day that the Flamanville 3 EPR "enters into service".
Publication of the decree comes just days after the utility said it intends to comply with previously announced legal requirements regarding the plant's continued operation. In accordance with French law, a decree is required to revoke the Fessenheim plant's operating licence. This decree, however, is to be issued at EDF's request. Following a board meeting on 7 April, EDF said it will instruct its chairman and CEO to issue a request for this decree within six months prior to the commissioning of the Flamanville 3 EPR.
In response to the board's decision, France's Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea said it would "legally endorse ... in the coming days" the "inevitable and irreversible" closure of the Fessenheim plant.
French President Francois Hollande's 2012 election pledge was to limit nuclear's share of French generation at 50% by 2025, and to close Fessenheim - the country's oldest plant - by the end of his five-year term, which ends in May. In June 2014, following a national energy debate, his government announced the country's nuclear generating capacity would be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe. It will also be limited to 50% of France's total output by 2025. The French Energy Transition for Green Growth Law was adopted in August 2015. Nuclear accounts for almost 75% of the country's electricity production, making closures of power reactors appear inevitable.
EDF is constructing a 1650 MWe EPR unit at Flamanville which is expected to start up in late 2018. The utility would therefore be forced to shut the equivalent capacity - most likely the two reactors at Fessenheim - by that time in order to begin operating the Flamanville unit.
By issuing the decree now, the current government aims to ensure that Fessenheim will be shut within the next few years, thereby achieving Hollande's pledge even though he will no longer be in power. In a statement, energy minister Ségolène Royal welcomed the decree's publication, declaring: "It is said, it is done."
She said, "I encourage EDF to pursue and strengthen investments in renewable energies: solar, wind, geothermal, marine energy, hydroelectricity, to reduce the share of nuclear energy to 50%, as required by law. I would add that this closure does not entail any job cuts by EDF because a large industrial decommissioning site will be able to start."
The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) - one of a number of trade unions that has strongly opposed the closure of Fessenheim - said the government had "rushed to sign and publish" the decree "a few days before the end of their mandate". It described the decree as "useless because it contains no real decision".
It added, "The review of the application for repealing the authorisation for operating Fessenheim will again be examined by the board of EDF when the time comes, that is to say six months before the commissioning of Flamanville 3."
System performance tests began yesterday at the Flamanville EPR on 15 March. The first phase of the tests involves flushing the primary circuit with water at a very high flow rate, after which cold testing will be carried out. EDF said the next milestone in Flamanville 3's commissioning will be the loading of fuel ahead of its scheduled start-up at the end of 2018.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News