Electricity: EDF nuclear production will be difficult until 2024… at least

En 2024, la sobriété dans la consommation d

The tense situation that the electrical system is about to experience this winter is not a temporary problem. It is a lasting problem that will continue over time. The figures published this Tuesday, September 13, by EDF confirm this: in 2024, nuclear production will be between 315 and 345 TWh, estimates the electrician. “This is the level of a year of Covid », says Nicolas Goldberg, an energy expert at Colombus Consulting. In 2020, a year marked by a strict two-month lockdown, French nuclear electricity production had indeed plummeted to 335.4 TWh, down 11.6% (44 TWh) from 2019.. Its lowest level since 1993 »RTE had then underlined, the manager of the electricity transmission network.

In 2024, electricity production should therefore be slightly higher than expected for 2023, currently estimated at between 300 and 330 TWh, slightly higher than that of 2022, which should be only 285 TWh, a “real disaster », according to Nicholas Goldberg.

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Since 2015 we knew that the situation was going to be tense »

These figures show that the electricity crisis will last until 2024, at least, and it is worrying, says the expert. Since 2015, we knew that the situation was going to be tense at the nuclear power plant at this time due to the inspections of ten years [arrêt de plusieurs mois de la production d’un réacteur, qui a lieu tous les dix ans, et pendant lequel un examen de sûreté est réalisé en profondeur. Les quatrièmes visites décennales (VD4), qui concernent en ce moment les plus vieux réacteurs du parc, ceux de 900 MW, comptent 20.000 activités de maintenance et de contrôles et visent à faire tendre le niveau de sûreté de ces réacteurs vers celui des EPR, ndlr], but we had no idea of ​​the depth of this crisis »concede.

Regarding the production estimate for 2024, EDF specifies “that the associated maintenance program is being consolidated ». At the moment, we still do not know the magnitude of the different factors that will affect the availability of the nuclear park in 2024. What will be the ratio of ten-year maintenance and inspections to corrosion problems? »Nicholas Goldberg asks.

Seven ten-year inspections planned for 2024

The nuclear production estimate for 2024 is explained by a dense industrial program and the continuous implementation of the nuclear reactor control program in the context of the stress corrosion cracking phenomenon. »indicates, for its part, EDF, without giving further details.

At the end of 2021, the electrician discovered a problem of stress corrosion cracking, in series, causing microcracks in the steel pipes, connected to the main primary circuit that surrounds the reactor. According to research carried out by EDF, 12 reactors are affected or potentially affected by this phenomenon, which is why they are currently closed. (While another 17 are currently closed for maintenance.) If this phenomenon continues until 2024, the maintenance stops could be longer to carry out additional checks.

In addition, seven ten-year shutdowns are planned for 2024: two relating to the 1,300 MW Penly 2 and Golfech 2 reactors, and five fourth ten-year shutdowns for the 900 MW Blayais 3, Cruas 3, Dampierre 4, Gravelines 4, Tricastin reactors. Four.

In 2024, therefore, we will still be in a tense situation. [sur le plan de la sécurité d’approvisionnement électrique, ndlr]. It will be necessary to apply eco-gestures, but also the principles of sobriety with the establishment of adequate tariff signals and apply them over time because it is a lasting problem. », Nicholas Goldberg insists.

Production decline since 2018

However, some elements could alleviate the French electrical system. On the production side, the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm, made up of 80 wind turbines, will be fully operational, with 100% commissioning scheduled for the end of 2022. It is also to be expected that the law of acceleration of renewable energies, which will soon be presented to the Council of Ministers, has produced its first effects.

France should then be able to import more electricity thanks to the establishment of a new interconnection between France and Italy through the Fréjus tunnel. This should be fully operational in the next few months. On the other hand, the results related to energy efficiency work are probably not there yet.

Since 2018, French nuclear production has continued to decline. Only the year 2021 was marked by a fragile rebound. The French nuclear park thus produced 393.2 TWh in 2018, 379.5 TWh in 2019, 335.4 TWh in 2020 and 360.7 TWh in 2021. You have to go back to 2015 to obtain a volume of more than 400 TWh, a level considered as normal » by all industry experts. And for good reason, from 2002 to 2015, the atom’s electricity output has always been greater than 400 TWh, except for 2009.