French utility EDF has applied to shut down Fessenheim unit 1 on 22 February and unit 2 on 30 June next year. The announcement confirms last week's statement from Secretary of State for Ecological and Solidarity Transition Emmanuelle Wargon that France's oldest nuclear power plant would close by mid-2020.

EDF said yesterday it had applied to nuclear safety regulator, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire, and the minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Élisabeth Borne, to shut the two 880 MWe pressurised water reactors at Fessenheim, which began operating in 1977 and 1978, respectively.

The company said the submission of the decommissioning application followed the signing of a protocol agreement on 27 September by the government and EDF. Under this agreement, the government will compensate EDF for the early closure of Fessenheim.

The protocol will provide two elements of compensation: a fixed initial portion and a further variable portion. The initial fixed portion - expected to total about EUR400 million (USD426 million) - will cover the anticipated costs associated with the closure of Fessenheim. This will include such costs as retraining of staff, decommissioning the plant, the basic nuclear facility tax and post-operational costs.

Further variable payments will be made to reflect EDF's operating income shortfall up to 2041 due to the closure of Fessenheim. This will be determined on the basis of market prices and EDF's 900 MWe generation volumes, without Fessenheim, as established over that period.

EDF said that, with these arrangements in place, it has been able to rationalise the redeployment of the station's personnel, within the scope of the agreement it signed with trade unions in May 2018.

"I would like to celebrate the efforts of Fessenheim personnel and contract staff, who have continued to operate our facility safely while maintaining extremely high levels of performance," said EDF Chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy. "I again assure them that the company holds them in high regard and that they will continue to receive all the company's support during the redeployment process."

Under the French Energy Transition for Green Growth Law, adopted in August 2015, the country's nuclear generating capacity will be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe, and nuclear's share of French generation would be limited to 50% by 2025. Nuclear accounts for almost 75% of France's electricity production.

While not calling for the shutdown of any currently operating power reactors, the policy means EDF would have to close older reactors in order to bring new ones online. The utility is constructing a 1650 MWe EPR unit at Flamanville. EDF would therefore be forced to shut the equivalent capacity - most likely the two reactors at Fessenheim - in order to begin operating the Flamanville unit.

The loading of fuel into the core of the Flamanville EPR was expected towards the end of this year but in June EDF said start-up of the unit might be delayed until the end of 2022 because of necessary repairs to welds in its primary circuit.

In a November 2018 speech at the Elysee palace to clarify France's energy transition, President Emmanuel Macron said 14 reactors of 900 MWe capacity will be shut down by 2035. He said the Fessenheim plant - close to the German border - would close in the spring of 2020.

Under a draft energy and climate bill presented in May this year, France will now delay its planned reduction in the share of nuclear power its electricity mix to 50% from the current 2025 target to 2035.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Wednesday, 02 October 2019
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