By Paul Homewood
The halt of yet another nuclear unit in France means half of its reactors are now offline for maintenance, keeping power supplies tight in a country that is traditionally one of Europe’s biggest electricity exporters.
Twenty-eight reactors are offline as Electricite de France SA struggles with extended outages after corrosion issues were found at some sites, requiring lengthy checks and repairs. The extra works come on top of already scheduled halts for refueling and regular maintenance, and has brought French nuclear output to the lowest in more than decade for the time of year.
The nuclear fleet is crucial, and can supply more than two thirds of the country’s power, so the halts could potentially worsen Europe’s supply crisis. They’re also having a bigger impact on France’s electricity market than in Germany, which relies more on gas and coal to run plants. France’s daily power prices have averaged about 30% more than in its neighbor this year, and four times higher than in the same period in 2021.
This is a reminder of just how old France’s nuclear reactors are. Out of the total nuclear capacity of 61 GW, only 9 GW is less than 30 years old. Just how much longer they can be patched together must be open to question.
Nuclear has still be supplying 62% of France’s electricity this month. France has plans to build six new reactors, but these will take at least a decade to come on stream, and will only replace a small part of the capacity likely to be shut down long before then.