Safety Faults Prompt France’s EDF to Takes Nuclear Reactors Offline

After faults have been found on pipes in a safety system at its Civaux nuclear power station, French power giant EDF announced on Wednesday it would shut down another plant that uses the same kind of reactors.

According to France’s biggest electricity supplier’s release, some defaults were detected in both Civaux reactors during preventive maintenance checks as part of its ten-yearly in-service inspection.

One reactor of the Civaux plant was stopped in August for a routine 10-year checkup and the second reactor was protectively halted in November.

The corrosion-linked flaws were discovered close to the welds on the safety injection system (SIS) circuit’s pipes, after which EDF has informed Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), the French nuclear safety authority.

Due to these faults, the outage at the Civaux plant will last longer than expected – the restart was planned for Dec. 24 – the company said, adding that it will also stop its plant in Chooz in eastern France which uses the same kind of reactors.

According to the EDF, the halt will result in about 1 Terawatt-hour loss by the end of 2021 which, based on current market prices, will lead to a downward revision of its EBITDA estimate to a range of EUR17.5 – 18 billion.

The extended outage-caused setback could turn into a headache for President Macron’s push for including nuclear energy in the list of favored green and sustainable investments on an EU-wide level.

It comes at a time when France is diverging from neighboring Germany, which retreated from nuclear power after the 2011Fukushima nuclear disaster, with its plans for a major nuclear power station building program.

After the recent warnings from the grid operator RTE that winter’s cold weather could strain tight winter supply margins increased the pressure on France’s nuclear-reliant power network, the outage news will only enlarge that burden since nuclear accounts for more than 70% of France’s energy mix.

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