The government has asked EDF to study the scenario of increasing the power of its existing reactors to restore its electricity production after a dark year 2022 which saw it fall to its lowest level for 30 years.
The State-shareholder is asking the national electrician to produce more, by optimizing the capacities of its existing nuclear fleet, made up of 56 reactors commissioned between 1979 and 2002. "I asked EDF to study
a increase in the power of the French nuclear fleet, in conjunction with the ASN
”, the Nuclear Safety Authority, confirmed the Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher after speaking in Le Monde on Tuesday.
This technical instruction is part of all the measures aimed at increasing the production of carbon-free energy in France and therefore in the policy of reviving the French nuclear industry
", specified the ministry.
The issue is also crucial for EDF, in the process of complete renationalisation, and whose nuclear production has been declining for years, until it reached its lowest level for 30 years at 279 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2022 due to work related to corrosion problems.
The executive's decision was taken on February 3 during a Nuclear Policy Council (CPN) convened by President Emmanuel Macron.
It is this same council of nuclear policy which had acted in the greatest secrecy the disputed reform of nuclear safety.
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This power increase measure "
could contribute to increasing the production of nuclear electricity, which is still below its potential
", estimates the ministry. Concretely, it is a question of gaining margins independently of the construction of six EPR reactors of new generation, the first of which is planned for 2035-2037... in the best of cases.
The study will focus on "
all three levels (categories, editor's note) of existing nuclear reactors
", which provide most of their current to the French: the 900 MW levels, and the most recent of 1300 MW and 1450 MW .
Boosting capacities would allow power gains of the order of "
" for certain reactors, estimated at the end of March Sylvie Richard, director of EDF's large fairing program.
Each megawatt is good to take
”, she pleaded during a visit to the nuclear power plant of Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux (Loir-et-Cher).
If these modifications were decided on the entire fleet with a total installed capacity of 61.4 GW, a 3% increase in production would amount to adding the equivalent of the power of "
", indicated for its part. the minister in Les Echos on March 1.
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Work on reducing maintenance shutdowns
According to the ministry, the investigation will be carried out “
by the end of 2023
” and “
will be the subject of a progress report at the end-of-year nuclear policy council
But for the time being, the ASN indicates that it has not yet "
received a file from EDF on this subject
Power increases have been authorized abroad
” and this solution had moreover been “
” for a time by EDF “
on the occasion of the third periodic review of the 1300 MW reactors
” started in 2015, but this does not had “
not had a follow-up
”, specifies the policeman of the nuclear.
In concrete terms, the technical study will primarily assess the possible modifications in the secondary circuit, where the steam produced in the primary circuit is sent to the giant turbines of the turbo-alternator to be transformed into electricity.
Why the secondary circuit in priority?
the safety issues should be less structuring than on the primary circuit
", the part housing the nuclear fuel, says the ministry.
But that's not all.
The government intends to work on reducing the duration of maintenance shutdowns and on "
" to raise EDF's production to a range of between 350 and 380 TWh in the coming years, i.e. an increase of approximately 30%.
EDF would then still be far from its golden age when it produced 430 TWh, as in 2005. Such modification or optimization costs would be added to the total bill for the large fairing, this colossal program which aims to modernize and extend the life of power plants beyond 40 years.
Its reassessed cost is around 66 billion euros.