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ENVIRONMENT

Earthquake hits France’s nuclear power output

French electricity giant EDF on Thursday cut its forecast for nuclear energy production this year after suspending operations at an atomic plant in the south of the country following a highly unusual earthquake.

Earthquake hits France's nuclear power output
The Cruas nuclear power plant has suspended production after earthquakes in the region. Photo: AFP

EDF took three reactors at the Cruas plant in the Ardeche region offline after Monday's earthquake, which had a magnitude of 5.4 and was felt across a vast area between the cities of Lyon and Montelimar.

The tremors were particularly felt in Teil, just 15 kilometres from the power plant.

The reactors were halted for checks, as required by the law in these circumstances, although no damage has so far been found.

EDF said as a result it was cutting its projection for nuclear energy production this year to 384-388 terawatt-hours (TWh), down from the previous forecast of 390 TWh.

The original forecast had already been cut due to stoppages at other reactors and weather conditions.

The company said in a statement it expected the Curas reactors to come back online progressively in the first two weeks of December, with the three reactors being relaunched successively on December 2, 6, and 16.

It had previously expressed hope that the restart would take place on Friday.

EDF said it hoped inspections on the site would be wrapped up within a week and the results forwarded to France's national nuclear safety body before the final all-clear is given.

“It is a purely administrative delay. It is important to get the authorisation to restart although, to my knowledge, no anomaly has been detected,” said EDF's chief financial officer Xavier Girre in a conference call with analysts.

EDF's nuclear operations have endured a tricky year, with the company repeatedly rapped by the government over delays at flagship projects.

EDF's European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) reactor in Flamanville is now seven years late and massively over budget, there have also been huge cost overruns at the Hinkley Point nuclear project in Britain and the EPR reactor at Olkiluoto in Finland is running a decade behind schedule.

An official report in October chided EDF for lacking a “culture of quality”.

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ENVIRONMENT

Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Across south west France trapping campaigns have begun in an attempt to control the numbers of dangerous Asian hornets.

Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Trapping campaigns are organised annually at this time of year, as the weather begins to get warmer and queens begin to emerge from hibernation.

And the Charente-Maritime town of Royan Atlantique, on France’s west coast, is leading the way, as the below video shows.

Experts say that now is the time to begin using the traps, as catching queen hornets in the process of building their nests will lead to far fewer insects later in the year. 

Some 2,000 traps are installed in and around Royan this year, including 300 that were distributed to householders in the week of Valentine’s Day. 

Once installed, the traps can capture several dozen insects at a time.

In order to capture a maximum of hornet queens, traps should be installed between mid-February and mid-May. Especially since during this period, these predators end up coming out of their hibernation.

It is believed Asian hornets arrived in France around 2004. They have now spread nationwide.

Although their venom is not more powerful than that of normal bees or wasps, they are known to be more aggressive towards humans, and their stings can cause anaphylactic shock in allergic people.

The hornets also damage beehives and kill bees, damaging honey stocks and destroying the native ecosystem.

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