French Government Response To EDF With Decree

The French government has called for the closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant in eastern France, taking the initiative less than a week after the owner of the plant, EDF, said it would keep the plant open past the retirement of the current administration.

Flamanville NPPThe government administration under President Francois Hollande ends in May. In a campaign pledge in 2012, however, Hollande promised to have the Fessenheim plant closed before he left office. EDF in January spelled out its agreement to close Fessencheim, but last week the board elected to keep it running until it was ready to open the third unit at Flamanville in western France.

EDF did not want to give up the revenue brought in by the two reactors at Fessenheim and unions applauded the decision that would keep jobs available. By law, however, Fessensheim must close by the time it opens Flamanville 3, as there is a 63.2 GWe cap on electricity generated by nuclear power in France, part of a nuclear power reduction policy meant to encourage growth of renewable power and decrease the country's dependence on nuclear power, which currently churns out 75 percent of the France's electricity generation.

On Monday, the government published a decree in the Official Journal that said it would cancel the license for Fesseheim's two 880 MWe reactors when Flamanville 3 goes on line, the World Nuclear Association reported.

The decree is at least a year ahead of the expected start up date for Flamanville 3. It could be viewed as a face-saving gesture from an outgoing president who had made a campaign pledge to close the plant. Hollande can now say he issued the order to have the plant closed.

The decree, in effect, declares what has already been agreed, but Energy Minister Segolene Royal announced, “It is said; it is done.” She also said she encouraged EDF “to pursue and strengthen investments in renewable energies: solar, wind, geothermal, marine energy, hydroelectricity to reduce the share of nuclear energy to 50 percent, as required by law.”

She also said that holding onto jobs was not a deal-breaking issue, because the jobs lost in plant operation would be made up by jobs gained in plant decommissioning.

Regardless, the Flamanville 3 project is not expected to go online until late 2018.

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