Environment

EDF Buys Electricity from European Grid Following France's Nuclear Reactors Take Routine Checks

Published on: 1 May 2022 05:21 PM
by KnowESG

Electricité de France (EDF), France's electricity supplier, has confirmed that half of the country's nuclear power facilities are currently offline. France's 56 reactors were shut down because of routine maintenance or defects, requiring EDF to purchase energy from the European system instead amid the gas crisis.

Although EDF says there are no safety concerns and that most reactors are down for routine maintenance, opponents have highlighted concerns about nuclear's reliability and Britain's recent large bets on the energy source.

Why do nuclear reactors shut down?

Five reactors have been shut down after corrosion-related cracking was discovered in pipework last year, with testing underway to evaluate the severity of the problem.

EDF suspects corrosion in at least six other facilities and will shut down three of them specifically for testing and testing at least three more during routine maintenance.

The company, which provides all of France's nuclear energy, revealed it was importing power from the European grid "to compensate for our nuclear facilities' lack of production."

Government says a necessity, not luxury

The United Kingdom has just announced that nuclear power will be at the centre of its new energy security strategy, with plans to build eight additional reactors by 2050 to provide 25% of the country's electricity.

"The concept that nuclear reactors are constantly on is incorrect," Tom Burke, chairman of the think tank E3G and self-described "sceptic" of nuclear policy, stated. "We just do not require [more nuclear power plants]. They're quite pricey."

Nuclear power, according to a spokesperson for the UK's energy department, is "a necessity, not a luxury," and the "only form of reliable, low-carbon electricity generation that has been proven at scale."

To reduce reliance on foreign gas and invest in initiatives to cut energy demand, the UK government is also supporting wind, solar, and North Sea oil and gas.

Climate activists have slammed plans for the North Sea, the paucity of onshore wind, and nuclear power's high cost.

EDF says high level of safety

According to EDF, Corrosion at five of the offline reactors "does not call into doubt the high level of safety of our plants."

"We propose to apply the safety-first concept to the technical problem of stress corrosion, which we are now dealing with," a spokeswoman stated.

Due to pandemic delays, the remaining 22 plants are shut down for standard yearly maintenance, which takes approximately five weeks, or for 10- or 40-year safety checks, which take longer.

Due to the setbacks, EDF's projected output for 2023 has been lowered by around 40 terawatt-hours (TWh), with reduced availability predicted well into next year. Due to reduced output and regulatory steps from the French government to curb price increases, global credit rating agency S&P cut EDF's rating in February, anticipating earnings to decline by €5-7 billion.

After the 1970s oil crisis, France built most of its reactors quickly in the late 1970s and 1980s, with the expectation of using them for 40 years. 

EDF is now attempting to extend their useful lives by ensuring they are as safe as new reactors, but this will take time and money.

Source: Sky News

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