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Electricity generation in France

Nuclear power

In 2006 78% of the electricity in France was generated by nuclear power. France operates by far the most NPPs in Europe (59). They are located all over the country.
The NPPs are operated by Electricité de France (EdF) and have a total capacity of over 63 GWe, supplying over 430 billion kWh per year of electricity.
Nuclear energy, used for electricity generation, accounts for over 40% of France’s primary energy supply.

France is the world's largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over EUR 3 billion per year from this.

Developments in the nuclear sector

2009, Oct, 16: Unregistered plutonium found in France

An inspection at a French nuclear research center has found 14 kilograms of plutonium which shouldn’t have been there, according to papers. The stock was three times bigger than it was supposed to.

The Cadarache research center near Marseille had 22 kilos of plutonium, but only eight of those had been registered.

The extra fissile material was discovered by French nuclear watchdog ASN in June during dismantling, but it was not reported until this Thursday.

Now the ASN is reviewing its security procedures. It also froze the dismantling of the reactor.

The event was given a 2 on the INES scale.

2009, Sept: Working conditions in French nuclear plants worsen

PIERRELATTE, France (Reuters) - Worsening working conditions, inadequate pay rises, pressure to work faster and safety concerns -- these are the familiar grievances of a disaffected work force.

When such complaints arise in France's most sensitive industry -- nuclear power -- alarm bells start ringing.

Cyril Bouche and his colleagues at the Tricastin nuclear plant in the rolling hills of the Drome region say the state-owned utility EDF, which runs France's 58 nuclear reactors and has been expanding into the United States and Britain, is not only cutting costs, but also cutting corners.

The 39-year old, who works for one of EDF's many subcontracting firms, says working conditions at the plant -- hit by a series of incidents that shook public trust in 2008 -- have deteriorated over the past five to 10 years.

"Today France is selling reactors abroad but it should first put its own house in order," said Bouche, the only one of 10 workers interviewed by Reuters who was prepared to be identified.

The French government has put forward state ownership of its nuclear sector as a guarantee of its safety, but former monopoly EDF subcontracts 80 percent of the maintenance at its nuclear reactors to firms such as Vinci, Areva, GDF Suez or Bouygues.

EDF denies the suggestion that subcontracting implies it is skimping, pointing to plans to more than double investments to 8 billion euros in 2009 from 2005 levels to build and modernise nuclear, fuel-fired power plants and hydraulic plants.

"We subcontract because we have very specialised activities. When we change the reactor's fuel, this is a very sophisticated activity," said Philippe Gaestel, head of industrial strategy at


"We prefer to use subcontractors rather than do it ourselves. This means we have specialists and competencies that we couldn't have internally."

But independent experts including Yves Marignac, executive director of the information agency Wise-Paris, say safety margins in French nuclear power plants are shrinking as plants age, economic pressure mounts and trained staff retire.

"Even if it remains very unlikely, the probability of a serious nuclear incident is rising because of the way things are evolving, and this in itself is very worrying," he told Reuters by telephone.

France's nuclear safety record worsened in 2008.

Last year there was an increase of nearly one-third in nuclear incidents reported by the French nuclear safety watchdog at level one of the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which runs from 0 to 7.

The French nuclear safety board ASN said there had been 72 incidents at level one in 2008, up from 56 in 2007.


Nuclear is the main industrial sector of the Drome region famous for the nougat delicacy made in the city of Montelimar.

"All in all nuclear must make up between 75 and 80 percent of the region's employment," said Guy Durand, deputy mayor to the town of Pierrelatte, one the three cities which share the nuclear site of Tricastin.

"It's there are around 5,000 permanent jobs on the industrial site," Durand added.

For Bouche and others, good pay was the lure to an industry that requires working long hours in dark and confined spaces with the constant risk of exposure to radiation.

A former car mechanic on the minimum wage, Bouche said he doubled his salary when he entered the nuclear sector 18 years ago but that pay had not increased with inflation.

France generates 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and is keen to export its expertise, which stretches back three decades, as other countries turn to nuclear to cut carbon emissions and boost their energy independence.

It opted for nuclear after the 1973 oil crisis pushed oil to then-record levels, although the choice was political: the costs of nuclear and fossil fuels are not easy to compare.

Thanks to state intervention in pricing, French consumers pay one of the cheapest rates for electricity in Europe. The French public continued to back the expansion of the industry after the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine in 1986, as other countries turned their back on the technology.

But as media attention mounts on atomic energy and France plans to extend its reactors' lifespans and build new ones, public acceptance is diminishing.

A 20-country survey earlier this year by Accenture showed that while public resistance to nuclear power had eased in many countries in the last three years, French consumers had become more negative.

(source: Reuters, published in

2009: France intends to construct a second EPR

The French president Nicolas Sarkozy announces the intent of France to build a second EPR (European pressurized reactor) in France.
It's going to be located in Penly, Seine-Maritime, in the Northwest of the country. The EPR will be entrusted to EDF as operator. The EPR belongs to the new Generation III reactors, which should be safer and more efficient than its predecessors. No EPR is in operation yet, the first EPR, which is currently built in Finland (Olkiluioto), should have been connected to the net in 2009, what had to be delayed to 2012.
supplement 2009-02-06:
French president Nicolas Sarkozy justified his decision during a visit at the 6th Feb. at the Flamanville-site as follows: "A new nuclear plant is good for France's trade balance - France's external trade is not so flourishing that it can sneeze at electricity exports." This way he confirms that the NPP could be destined to export rather than to satisfy internal demand. Nuclear opponents argue
that nuclear waste and accident risks remain in France while the electricity is exported. (source: no-nukes-eur-list)

2002: Changes in safety review

French nuclear safety authorities have signed off on a forward decade of operation for Electricite de France's (EDF) 900-MW-class PWRs, marking the end of a systematic safety review and upgrade process that itself took more than a decade. Among other conclusions, chief regulator Andre-Claude Lacoste said that the safety level of EDF's oldest reactors at Fessenheim and Bugey (the six-unit CP0 series) is now equivalent to that of the 28 standardized units in the utility's 900- MW PWR series, called CPY, and that the exercise had significantly raised the safety of the entire series. EDF can thus continue to operate the plants until their 30th-year statutory outages, Lacoste wrote, provided it carries out modifications already planned in the safety review, and meets DGSNR's requirements for a few additional studies and backfits outlined in the letter. As long as no unanticipated safety or other problems change the situation, that means EDF's 900-MW units are licensed to operate, for the youngest among them, until 2015. Before then, however, a new safety review cycle will have been initiated for the plants' 30th-year outages.

The safety review was begun in 1987 for the CP0 series and in 1990 for the CPY series. Originally, the process was meant to take 10 years, but it took longer, as safety authorities and EDF worked to define the content and schedule of the review and pin down the units' new "reference safety level." The reference safety level is basically a new licensing basis including updated safety requirements and all other modifications made since the original safety report. The updated safety analysis for the CP0 units was finished in 1995, but the process continued with complementary analyses of seismic resistance of buildings and a dike at Fessenheim, the risk of reactor base mat melt-through in a severe accident, and the operation of safety system pumps under accident conditions. When it was all done, safety authorities asked EDF to apply to the early units the conclusions of later safety reviews of the CPY series, so as to have "a homogeneous safety level" for all the 900-MW plants. In the meantime, EDF began the safety review of the CPY series in 1990, for the first time using probabilistic safety analysis (PSA) to complement deterministic studies. However, neither EDF nor DGSNR has publicized the results of the PSAs.

The regulators also flag as a success the "complementary investigation program" (PIC) conducted during decennial outages to check, on a sampling basis, the status of auxiliary piping that isn't covered in regular preventive maintenance programs. Not only did the PIC reveal fabrication defects in certain sections which led to replacement or weld repairs, but it also found some defects that are potentially generic but aren't covered by future inspection programs, Lacoste wrote in an annex to his July 11 letter. In his letter, Lacoste said that the first safety review phase had led to the detection of "a large number of divergences, most of which have been corrected" and others of which are in the process of correction. Thus one of the regulators' conditions for future operation of the 900-MW plants is extension of the PIC to all units that haven't yet had their 20th-year outage, "in light of the defects found on the first six reactors." The new program must cover at least the component cooling system and steam lines running between the main steam system and the auxiliary feedwater system and the 380-volt AC emergency supply distribution system. EDF is required to present the program to DGSNR by the end of this month. One of the big surprises of the last decade was the discovery at Bugey and Fessenheim, thanks to the conformance checks, of structural and design defects in supports for auxiliary feedwater tanks. Indeed, in France the conformance checks had revealed "a large number of nonconformances" and the fact they have now been largely fixed makes a large contribution to the rise in safety at EDF's reactors. In his letter, Lacoste also said EDF's process for finding and characterizing defects in civil structures must be improved, asking for new inspection programs by February 2003 to cover reinforced steel structures and concrete structures such as canal walls that are exposed to an aggressive environment.Lacoste also set a number of conditions associated with new requirements for qualification of plant equipment to operation at lower temperatures than in the original design.

Bugey was most sensitive to the risk of blockage of its intake canal by ice crystals, and asked EDF to submit an in-depth study of that risk by the end of 2004. On To The 1,300-MW Units. DGSNR wants EDF to modify its methodology for calculating the radiological consequences of design-basis accidents and to change, or justify more thoroughly, certain assumptions used in the PSA for the 1,300-MW plant series.

The safety review process will continue for the 1,300-MW reactors, with definition of a batch of back fits to be implemented on Paluel-1, the first unit in the series, during its 20th year outage in 2005.

2003: EPR plannend in France

In November 2003 the French Government announced that the first EPR will be planned in France. EDF choose Flamanville as site for the EPR. This decision is protested against.
More information: Areva - former Framatome-Siemens
Greenpeace France

2000: Nuclear Safety agency criticizes safety of NPPs in France

France's nuclear safety agency criticizes safety at nuclear reactors run by the state-owned energy utility Electricité de France (EDF): Safety measures "lack rigour and proper planning," according to the year 2000 report issued by the national safety agency (DSIN). DSIN argues that EDF's management of its 58 nuclear plants "still has a considerable number of day-to-day problems" and that the company's "bad habits are slowing
down the development of preventive measures".

DSIN raised fears about EDF safety standards in its 1998 report, but claims that fresh problems have arisen since and expressed fears that EDF safety levels were suffering from increased pressures due to market liberalisation. "For this reason, DSIN must make sure that EDF doesn't just maintain current safety levels but actively pursues measures to improve safety. We will be keeping a watchful eye on the company in 2000," the report says.

1998: Green party announces slow change in course away from nuclear power

Despite its heavy dependence on nuclear power in 1998 the French Green Party which was then part of the government announced that the country is "changing course" away from reliance on nuclear, albeit "slowly and cautiously." She said no French government, even one composed entirely of Greens, could decide on an immediate phase-out of nuclear in France. But for the next century, she said, other electricity sources should have priority. Notably, Voynet said, it would be "surrealistic" to imagine that France could build an EPR advanced PWR all alone, if German utilities don't participate, adding the pre-election agreement between her party and Jospin´s Socialists "imposes a moratorium on the construction of nuclear reactors until 2010."

Sites With Nuclear Facilities

siteplantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
BellevilleBelleville-1PWR 130019801987
Belleville-2PWR 130019801988
BlayaisBlayais-1PWR 90019771981
Blayais-2PWR 90019771982
Blayais-3PWR 90019781983
Blayais-4PWR 90019781983
BugeyBugey-1GCR 540196519721994
Bugey-2PWR 90019721978
Bugey-3PWR 90019731978
Bugey-4PWR 90019741979
Bugey-5PWR 90019741979
BureBureLLW/ILW repository
CattenomCattenom-1PWR 130019791987
Cattenom-2PWR 130019801988
Cattenom-3PWR 130019821990
Cattenom-4PWR 130019831991
ChinonChinon-A1GCR 70195719631973
Chinon-A2GCR 210195919651985
Chinon-A3GCR 480196119661990
Chinon-B1PWR 90019771982
Chinon-B2PWR 90019771983
Chinon-B3PWR 90019801986
Chinon-B4PWR 90019811987
ChoozChooz-APWR 310196219671991
Chooz-B1PWR 1500 N419841996
Chooz-B2PWR 1500 N419851997
CivauxCivaux-1PWR 1500 N419881997
Civaux-2PWR 1500 N419911999
Creys MalvilleCreys Malville SuperphenixFBR 1200197619861998
CruasCruas-1PWR 90019781983
Cruas-2PWR 90019781984
Cruas-3PWR 90019791984
Cruas-4PWR 90019791984
DampierreDampierre-1PWR 90019751980
Dampierre-2PWR 90019751980
Dampierre-3PWR 90019751981
Dampierre-4PWR 90019751981
FessenheimFessenheim-1PWR 90019711977
Fessenheim-2PWR 90019721977
FlamanvilleFlamanville-1PWR 130019791985
Flamanville-2PWR 130019801986
GolfechGolfech-1PWR 130019821990
Golfech-2PWR 130019841993
GravelinesGravelines -1PWR 90019751980
Gravelines- 3PWR 90019751980
Gravelines-2PWR 90019751980
Gravelines-4PWR 90019761981
Gravelines-5PWR 90019791984
Gravelines-6PWR 90019791985
GrenobleGrenobleResearch Reactor
ILL Grenoble RHFHigh-Flux 57 MW
La Chapelle BatonLa Chapelle BatonLW/ILW repository
La HagueLa Haguereprocessing plant
La MancheLa MancheLLW/MLW burial center
MarcouleMarcoule-G2GCR 40195519591980
Marcoule-G3GCR 40195619601984
Monte d ArreeMonte d ArreeHWGCR 70196219671985
NogentNogent-1PWR 130019811987
Nogent-2PWR 130019821988
PaluelPaluel-1PWR 130019771984
Paluel-2PWR 130019781984
Paluel-3PWR 130019791985
Paluel-4PWR 130019801986
PenlyPenley-1PWR 130019821990
Penley-2PWR 130019841992
PhenixPhenixFBR 250196819732009
St. AlbanSt.Alban-1PWR 130019791985
St.Alban-2PWR 130019791986
St. LaurentSt.Laurent-A1GCR 480196319691990
St.Laurent-A2GCR 520196619711992
St.Laurent-B1PWR 90019761981
St.Laurent-B2PWR 90019761981
TricastinTricastin-1PWR 90019741980
Tricastin-2PWR 90019741980
Tricastin-3PWR 90019751981
Tricastin-4PWR 90019751981
ValognesValognesCogema's spent fuel rail terminal