EDF: restart all its nuclear reactors for this winter, a promise difficult to keep

EDF: restart all its nuclear reactors for this winter, a promise difficult to keep

Parallel to the reactivation of the 32 closed reactors, EDF plans the scheduled closure of another four reactors by the end of the year. WILLIAM SOUVANT / AFP

Many uncertainties hang over the ability of the energy company to meet this schedule, linked in particular to the corrosion problems detected in a dozen reactors.

While the winter promises to be particularly strained for France’s electricity supply, the state of the French nuclear fleet, essential to the hexagonal energy system, is being viewed with concern. “32 reactors are shut down, some due to stress corrosion cracking and others due to routine maintenance», recalled Agnès Pannier-Runacher on Friday, at the end of the first Energy Defense Council. And the Minister for the Energy Transition announced that EDF had “promised to restart all reactors by this winter“.

A statement that raised many questions, some understanding it as the promise that 100% of the French nuclear park would be available throughout the winter, from December 21 to March 19. The reality will not look like this. Because, if EDF confirms Figaro the schedule for restarting its 32 reactors (out of 56) for this winter -four of which were going to be restarted in recent days-, the energy company also foresees the scheduled shutdown of four reactors by the end of the year. And another one is already planned, in Saint-Laurent-Nouan (Loir-et-Cher), starting on January 21.

On the other hand, the restart of the 32 shutdown reactors mentioned by Agnès Pannier-Runacher, for reactor 1 of the Golfech power plant (Tarn-et-Garonne), is extended until February 18. “The goal is 27 open by the end of December, and the 32 closed today open by February“, indicated on Monday the Delegate Minister in charge of Industry, Roland Lescure, on Franceinfo. “Therefore, the entire park will not be available this winter.“, we say in EDF, specifying that “5 to 10 reactors will be in maintenance” during the winter. Or more or less “like last winter“, they assure us on the side of the public company.

Sometimes complex repairs

Many uncertainties hang over EDF’s ability to meet this schedule. In particular, the ability of the energy company to repair in time the dozen reactors that have suffered corrosion problems is being questioned. “There are a large number of projects to be carried out simultaneouslywe point to the side of the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), whose authorization is necessary to restart a reactor. And they are also carried out in areas exposed to radioactivity, so there are specific conditions regarding the intervention.» «The intervention of operators in the irradiated area will limit the individual intervention capacity of each agent“, abounds Yves Marignac, consultant on nuclear energy and energy transition within the négaWatt association.

ASN also highlights that, of the dozen reactors in question, “several require more work“.”They present a little more difficulty and therefore uncertainty in terms of times“, we judge. All the more so, according to Yves Marignac, that there are “an important limitation, that of the number of qualified operators available to implement these repairs“.

Pressure exerted on the nuclear safety authority?

Finally, the EDF schedule seems to omit the fact that some reactors “still subject to controls“, informs the ASN. “Either to determine the magnitude of the corrosion phenomenon, or to know if they are subject to corrosion, which adds a degree of uncertainty.“, adds the authority, which Agnès Pannier-Runacher presented Tuesday on CNEWS as “one of the most demanding international agencies” Y “Independent“.

A way for the minister to respond to the accusations, made by some observers, of pressure that the government would exert on the ASN to authorize the reactivation of the currently closed reactors, in defiance of security. “In shutdown reactors, ensuring that there is no delay in the schedule means deciding in advance that any danger that could affect safety should be ignored or postponed.», Estimates Yves Marignac. The same problem arises with reactor shutdowns due to corrosion, according to the expert. “The more pressure is exerted to move quickly in the implementation of these repairs, the more the ASN’s margin of appreciation to authorize the restart is reduced.“, get moving. Even if, on the part of EDF, it is specified that “the government did not ask for anything“, cast'”based on calendar only» that the company communicated to you.

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