Decree To Close France's Oldest Nuclear Reactors Is Nullified

The Council of State in France has revoked the government’s decree calling for an annulment of utility EDF’s operating license for the Fessenheim nuclear power plant in northeastern France.

Fessenheim NPPThe Council’s decision focused on procedure, noting that revoking the license by law needed to start with a request from the power company.

The closure of the two units at the Fessenheim facility is already fated, owing to the government’s policy, decided in June 2014, to limit nuclear capacity in France to 63.2 GWe, the current level, and to have nuclear power production slashed to 50 percent of its total generation by 2025. Currently, about 75 percent of France’s electricity is generated by nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA).

The policy makes closure of some nuclear power plants “appear inevitable,” the World Nuclear News said.

With the policy capping nuclear generation at current levels, EDF cannot add any new reactors to the grid without retracting the equivalent by closing one or more of its older reactors. That means EDF must account for the addition of the 1650 European Pressurized Reactor (Unit 3) at the Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant, which is expected to go online by early 2020.

Fessenheim is comprised of two 880 MWe pressurized water reactors that have been in operation since 1977 and 1978, respectively, making the plant custom fit for a trade-off when Flamanville 3 starts up.

The government, however, jumped the gun.  In April 2017, the government issued the decree spelling out the closure and noting that when Flamanville “comes into service.” The proclamation was published three days after EDF’s board directed its chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy to wait until six months prior to the new unit’s start up to make the request.

A complaint was filed in court by labor unions and the municipality of Fessenheim, the WNA said.

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