EDF Board Elects To Keep Fessenheim NPP Operating

The board of directors at French utility EDF have voted to continue operations of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant that has received international pressure to close and was slated to do so as part of the French government's commitment to reduce the country's dependence on nuclear power.

Fessenheim NPPEDF's board voted on Thursday to keep Fessenhiem running until it was ready to commission the Flamanville European Pressurized Reactor that is under construction in western France. The Fessenheim plant, meanwhile, is in eastern France, close to Switzerland and Germany and it includes the country's oldest two operating reactors, which has given rise to opponents who want the plant closed. The two reactors at Fessenheim were commissioned in 1977 and 1978, respectively.

But the plants have been certified safe by French authorities, complying with heightened, post-Fukushima Daiichi safety standards.

French President Francois Hollande, however, said in 2012, as an election campaign pledge, that the plant would be closed before he left office, which is now just a month away. France generates about 75 percent of its electricity through nuclear power and the government's new policy calls for a reduction to 50 percent by 2025.

That reduction legally caps nuclear power capacity at 63.2 GWe, meaning EDF, which in January agreed in principle to close Fessenheim, is technically permitted to keep Fessenheim running until a new nuclear power plant is online to replace the power lost by taking Fessenheim off line.

Operating Flamanville EPR 3, in other words, would push nuclear power over the 63.2 GWe cap, so EDF would need to close down a plant to allow for the new unit. Presumably, EDF would close its oldest reactors.

The decision of the board, taken in application of the law and respecting the company's social interest, enable's EDF, fully committed to the energy transition, to have the nuclear fleet necessary to fullfill its obligations to supply its customers,” said EDF Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy.

The board, meanwhile, instructed Levy to request a declaration from the government that would call for revoking the Fessensheim license, but to wait until within six months of the commissioning of the new reactor before doing so.

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