France has escaped the worst for this winter

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The Nuclear Safety Authority on Wednesday validated EDF’s strategy to deal with corrosion problems that have hampered electricity supply prospects this winter. Currently, about thirty reactors out of 56 have been shut down, including 12 for corrosion and 18 for scheduled maintenance.

France has escaped a dark scenario for its electricity supply, which is very tight for next winter, the nuclear police that validated on Wednesday July 27 the strategy of EDF to deal with corrosion problems which affected some reactors.

EDF plans to check all its reactors by 2025 by ultrasound to look for any signs of this problem that led to the shutdown of 12 of the 56 reactors.

The group must as a priority control the most sensitive areas of the 1,450 MW reactors – the most powerful – and the rest of the 1,300 MW.

The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) “considers that EDF’s strategy is appropriate given the knowledge gained from the event and the associated safety issues”, it shows in a press release, without claiming a control that schedule. tighter overall.

“However, regarding reactor 2 of the Belleville nuclear power plant, ASN considers that the inspection of this reactor scheduled for 2024 is too late”, he specified.

EDF is “taking note” and “studying a new programming of the controls for this reactor”, introduced the group in an information note.

The schedule of checks “is part of the closures already scheduled for the years 2022 to 2025”, the company outlined. But “these breaks are likely to be extended if there is a recovery for periods of up to 25 weeks”.

ASN also considers that knowledge of the phenomenon is “still evolving” and that “the inspection program should be adapted if inspections or analyzes reveal new elements”.

These corrosion problems were found or suspected in the welds of the bends of the safety injection pipe (RIS) – which allows the reactor to be cooled in the event of an accident – which is connected to the main circuit. This so-called “stress” corrosion results in small cracks.

Also check the shutdown reactor cooling circuit (RRA) in some reactors.

Thirty reactors are currently shut down

This corrosion problem weighs on the prospects for nuclear electricity production and financial results this year for EDF, whose government plans to renationalize 100%.

It also raised concerns for France’s electricity supply next winter. Thirty reactors out of 56 are currently shut down, including 12 for corrosion and 18 for scheduled maintenance.

From this point of view, the decision of the ASN on Wednesday will not worsen the situation because the nuclear police did not ask for faster checks, similar to reactor shutdowns, but essentially confirms the EDF schedule. .

“The scenario we can escape is one where ASN adds an additional constraint that reduces the availability of nuclear for the coming winter”, explained Julien Teddé, managing director of the broker Opéra Energie. “A negative opinion from ASN can be bad news”, even “a disaster”, he said.

“I find it reassuring that ASN has made this decision,” said Sébastien Menesplier, of CGT Mines-Énergie, interviewed by AFP. “Given the current energy situation and the production fleet, ASN had better prove it, otherwise we’re in for a hell of a mess.”

Supply fears this winter come on top of other factors, starting with rising gas prices fueled by fears of shortages amid the invasion of Ukraine, which is pulling electricity prices higher.

Prices have almost doubled in a few weeks: electricity for delivery in 2023 in France was traded on Wednesday around 500 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), against less than 300 euros in mid-June.

These futures prices no longer follow their usual economic logic but probably reflect “expectations of a severe shortage” and “a high risk premium in the French electricity market”, according to the regulator in the sector.

The fears are not limited to the nuclear fleet. “The real question for me is the connections”, as France relies on its neighbors for the part of the winter, judge Julien Teddé.

“If there is a rationing of gas next winter, with more questions of unity between the States, it does not seem to me completely won that the Germans agree to burn gas to produce electricity and will be sent to France”, he warned.

With AFP

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