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France extends shutdown of four nuclear reactors amid corrosion problems

French electricity group EDF has announced that shutdowns of four nuclear reactors would be extended for several weeks because of corrosion problems, potentially putting more pressure on prices as winter approaches.

France extends shutdown of four nuclear reactors amid corrosion problems
Smoke rises from chimneys of the Bugey nuclear power plant on January 25, 2022, in Saint-Vulbas, central eastern France. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)

France generates some 70 percent of its electricity from a fleet of 56 reactors, but 32 are currently offline either for routine maintenance or to evaluate the corrosion risks.

EDF said the stress corrosion — which produces tiny cracks — was found at four sites near welds on pipes of cooling circuits that are crucial in case of shutdowns or accidents, prompting shutdowns and inspections of eight similar reactors.

The four reactors are now set to resume output between November 1st and January 23nd.

Overall output for 2022 is now expected at the lower end of its forecast of 280 to 300 terawatt-hours (TWh), an EDF spokesman told AFP.

If its own production is insufficient for France’s needs, EDF imports electricity from elsewhere in Europe, where prices are soaring as Russia clamps down on exports of natural gas, also a main source for electricity.

The emergency work added to the financial woes of the heavily indebted state-controlled company, which the government now plans to fully nationalise as it moves to relaunch France’s nuclear industry.

President Emmanuel Macron called earlier this year for the construction of up to 14 new reactors to power the country’s transition away from fossil fuels.

Customers in France have so far escaped the soaring utility bills seen across much of Europe thanks to the government’s price cap, although this currently runs only until the end of the year.

EXPLAINED Why are French energy prices capped?

Member comments

  1. “Smoke rises from chimneys of the Bugey nuclear power…”

    Ce n’est pas de la fumée; c’est de la vapeur d’eau.

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ECONOMY

French economy minister ‘worried’ by British ‘disaster’

France's economy minister said Friday that he was worried by the financial turbulence in Britain, criticising Prime Minister Liz Truss's economic policies for causing a "disaster" of high borrowing rates for her country.

French economy minister 'worried' by British 'disaster'

“I’m not worried about the situation in the eurozone,” Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio when asked about the risk of the crisis spreading. “On the other hand, I am worried about the British situation.”

“What does it show? It shows firstly that there are costs for financial and economic policies,” he said.

Truss’s “mini-budget” announced last Friday included major tax cuts that would need to be financed by extra borrowing, spooking investors who immediately questioned the credibility of the policies and Britain’s financial standing.

“When you take on major costs like that, with spectacular announcements, as some opposition parties want to do in France, it perturbs the markets. It perturbs financial balances,” Le Maire said.

“And it leads to a real disaster with interest rates which are 4.5 percent or even higher in Great Britain. We have interest rates which are reasonable, which are quite close to Germany’s because there is consistency in our economic and financial policymaking,” he said.

“The second thing is that leaving Europe comes with a considerable cost because Europe is a protection,” he added, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The pound fell to an all-time low against the dollar and the yield on 10-year British government bonds — which sets the cost of borrowing for the government — briefly rose to above 4.5 percent on Wednesday.

That led the Bank of England to intervene with a £65 billion emergency bond-buying programme to stabilise the market.

Le Maire has been under pressure this week to explain his own budget choices, with the government planning to borrow a record €270 billion next year and a run a deficit of 5.0 percent of GDP.

Some analysts see the deficit as likely to be higher because of Le Maire’s optimistic growth forecast for the economy and assumptions about savings from a controversial pensions reform that has not been passed by parliament.

French-British relations have been rocky for years, particularly under former prime minister Boris Johnson, with a host of issues souring ties from Brexit and fishing rights to migrants.

French ministers had been reluctant to comment on Truss since she came to power despite deep concerns about her Brexit policies and her statement while campaigning that she did not know if French President Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe.”

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