Wednesday 25 January 2017

EDF To Close Oldest Nuclear Power Station In France


EDF has voted to begin the process of closing France’s oldest nuclear power station after pressure from Germany and a law capping the country’s reliance on atomic power.

The French energy firm’s board approved plans on Tuesday to close the 39-year old Fessenheim plant in north-east France, near the German border, allaying fears that the company, which is 85%-state owned, would drag its heels until President François Hollande left office later this year.

Hollande had promised in his manifesto to shut the site in an effort to build an alliance with the Green party. Fessenheim has also been the subject of complaints about safety from the German and Swiss governments.

Under Hollande, France has pledged to reduce its reliance on nuclear from 78% of electricity generation to 50% by 2025 and increase its use of renewables, such as wind and solar. The country’s nuclear plants are ageing, with many expected to come to the end of their life in the 2030s.

France’s energy transition law caps the amount of nuclear power at 63.2 gigawatts, meaning the Fessenheim plant needs to close in 2018 to pave the way for a new one at Flamanville.

Under the deal agreed by EDF, the company will be paid €490m (£420m) in compensation for dismantling the plant and retraining its 850 workers.

“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 Lévy, its chief executive.

Unions said they were pleased that the plant, which had been slated for closure as early as 2016, would stay open for another year. “For us it’s a good decision. We consider it a victory because the closure has been delayed until 2018,” said Marie-Claire Cailletaud, a spokeswoman for the CGT union, which represents workers.

Experts said that if the centre right won power from the Socialist-Green coalition in presidential elections this April, the target of reducing nuclear to 50% of electricity generation could be watered down.

“It is politically impossible,” said Marc Fornacciari, a French energy expert and partner at law firm Dentons, of the centre right’s stance. “They will not abide by 50% of nuclear generation as that would lead to the closure of a third of nuclear plants. Nuclear will decrease but not as quickly as [required] by law.”



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