France is at its lowest nuclear power at its worst

France has long been one of the world's largest producers of nuclear energy. France ranks first in the European Union for nuclear production, and relies on nuclear energy for a larger share of its energy mix than any other country in the world. It makes sense that France is leading the development of nuclear energy, as it has long been the world manifesto of safe and reliable nuclear energy – until now.

A recent series of unforeseen problems at Électricité de France (EDF), the state-owned nuclear operator representing the largest nuclear fleet in Europe, has plunged French nuclear power generation to its lowest levels in 30 years . About half of EDF's massive nuclear fleet has been taken out of service, dealing a severe blow to the EU's independence and energy security in the midst of a global energy crisis.

In recent years, France has become increasingly dependent on nuclear energy. French President Emmanuel Macron gave an even greater boost to nuclear energy during his tenure. Indeed, in February, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he announced a 52 billion euro plan to relaunch the country's " nuclear adventure ". It has also fought for the inclusion of the emission-free energy source as a “green investment” in the European Union nomenclature, as the continent sets out to establish its own green energy balance for the next few years.

The European Union hoped that France's sizable nuclear capacity would be key to allowing the bloc to move away from Russian gas and oil as the West seeks to strengthen its energy independence and increase sanctions on the Kremlin in response to the war. Russian in Ukraine. In March of this year, the Council on Foreign Relations said nuclear power could be the answer to ending the continent's crippling dependence on Russian energy. But now it may be the very element that makes such a divorce impossible.

So far France has been relatively safe from the energy crisis that has hit its neighbors. But now the nation, which relies on nuclear power, suddenly finds itself in the same boat as other European countries in energy difficulties, due to a " series of maintenance problems, including the corrosion of some of the now obsolete French reactors, the problems of the state-owned energy group EDF and the absence for years of significant new nuclear investments “, according to reports from the Financial Times . Corrosion problems, which currently affect 12 of the 56 out-of-service French reactors, could take years to resolve. Meanwhile, inflation is skyrocketing and French electricity bills have hit record highs.

" Instead of pumping large quantities of electricity to Great Britain, Italy and other European countries that have moved away from Russian oil ," writes the New York Times, " France is faced with the disturbing prospect of starting blackout in rotation this winter and having to import energy ” . The incredibly bad timing of the EDF crisis is compounded by Putin's recent cut in natural gas exports to the EU, which has pushed countries like Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands to a " bitter and reluctant return to coal “.

The simultaneous collapse of nuclear power generation capacity in France and Putin's retaliation on energy exports to Europe herald a disaster and tragedy for the continent's and the world's decarbonisation efforts. And even if France manages to get its nuclear fleet back into operation relatively quickly (a highly unlikely feat), the EU is unlikely to be able to continue its planned phase-out of coal, as the International Agency for energy warns that Russia may soon cut off its natural gas flow to Europe altogether. While other countries, including Romania, will increase their nuclear power capacity in the coming months and years, it appears we are on track for a successful year for coal and a devastating setback for global emissions targets.

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This is a machine translation of a post published on Scenari Economici at the URL on Sun, 26 Jun 2022 07:00:27 +0000.