Nuclear power will be down this year. EDF, which forecast electricity production of 395 terawatt hours, revised its forecast to 390 Twh. Last year she had reached 393 Twh. The electrician justifies this decrease by “a 2019 campaign particularly complex, with the realization of seven ten-yearly visits”. These maintenance operations that immobilize the nuclear reactors for about six months tend to multiply. At the beginning of 2010, EDF made four to five visits every year. But the French fleet is aging and the operations are more and more complex.
Jean-Bernard Lévy's group has embarked on a gigantic 50 billion-euro program called “large refit” which aims to extend the life of the reactors from 10 to 20 years so that they can operate 50 years, even 60 years. The phase of the fourth ten-year visit began at the Tricastin power plant (Drôme), which has four reactors. In the coming months, it will be the turn of Gravelines (North, 6 reactors) and Dampierre (Loiret, 4 reactors). Maintenance visits will continue at a high pace until 2023.
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They are not the only reason for the decline in nuclear production. For EDF, there is also a “superposition of dense operations planned for the second half of the year (2019) on the entire fleet (which has resulted) in extended scheduled shutdowns, particularly on the Flamanville 2 reactors. (Channel) and Paluel 4 (Seine-Maritime) “. Added to this was the unexpected shutdown in mid-September of Flamanville reactor 1 due to corrosion on back-up systems and “adverse weather conditions”, a modest way of evoking strong windy periods in the spring. sunny in summer where wind turbines and photovoltaic work full. This is the drama of nuclear power. It is not a priority in relation to renewable energies. The windmill park and solar power plants are getting bigger and bigger. Over the last twelve months, renewable electricity has covered 22% of French consumption. Faced with this risk, nuclear reactors must adapt and modulate their power according to the wind and the sun.
More tolerance of the ASN
EDF's situation is, however, less critical than it was three years ago. At the end of 2016, a third of the 58 reactors had been shut down at the request of the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN). ASN, which recently changed its president, seems to be in better shape today. The Authority has been adamant about Flamanville's welding problems (the EPR will finally be launched in 2023 instead of the end of 2020). But on the existing stock, she believes that EDF can continue its activity. “In view of the analyzes we have conducted since the beginning of September in connection with EDF and Framatome, we believe that there is no need to stop the reactors equipped with steam generators concerned by the defective welds” , declared yesterday to Echoes the president of the Authority Bernard Doroszczuk.
Remains that for the third consecutive time, EDF fails to cross the 400 Twh mark of nuclear. The group is now very far from the record of 429 Twh recorded in 2005. Today, the French nuclear fleet produces about 71% of its maximum theoretical capacity, while five years ago, EDF was aiming for an additional availability rate. 80%. The electrician then launched the Generation 420 program to eventually reach 420 Twh. But today, this goal is all wishful thinking. As the share of nuclear in the energy mix must increase from 70% to 50% by 2035, it will probably never be reached.