Half of French reactors not operating

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Half of France’s 56 reactors are currently offline and 12 of them are closed due to corrosion problems that are waiting inspection. The corrosion caused cracks in the pipes of a back-up water injection system, a problem French nuclear safety authorities said could take years to fix.

France’s nuclear plants delivered just 37 percent of the country’s electricity requirement in April, compared to the usual 70 percent, marking an all-time low. The struggles virtually guarantee an electricity shortage in winter as France relies on electricity for domestic heating.

However, France has nowhere to turn, other than importing fossil fuel energy, because  the country “lags behind European neighbours in building solar and wind power due to bureaucracy and its long reliance on nuclear energy,” reported a May 30, 2022 article in the Financial Times.

French president, Emmanuel Macron’s boasts earlier this year of a new nuclear “renaissance” that would deliver six new reactors with eight more to follow, now looks suitably delusional, as France demonstrates it cannot vouch for the safety and reliability of the fleet it currently has. Its new reactor projects, under the auspices of Électricité de France (EDF), have also been a disaster of cost over-runs, technical blunders and long delays.

“Repeated delays and cost overruns on two flagship next-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) projects in France and Britain have also given EDF a reputation for being unable to make novel nuclear technologies on time and on budget,” said the Financial Times article.

Meanwhile, even more French reactors could come offline as global warming heats up rivers, making essential water sources for cooling nuclear plants unusable. Plants must power down if the source water it too hot, according to laws that limit environmental damage.

(Headline photo: The Bugey reactor, at risk of closing due to warming waters, by Spiritrespect/Wikimedia Commons)

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