EDF says can extend life of French nuclear reactors by 20 years

14th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

EDF's new chief executive said Wednesday that he is confident that it will obtain approval to extend the service life of its reactors in France by up to 20 years.

The comments by Jean-Bernard Levy came a day after Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal endorsed building new reactors to replace ageing plants in the first signal that the Socialist government will keep nuclear a major component in France's energy production despite reducing it in favour of renewables.

"France's existing reactors have an average age of 30 years, and I am confident of EDF's capability along with its main partners their service life in complete security up to 50 years or even 60," he told a Senate committee.

The service life of France's 58 nuclear reactors is currently limited to 40 years.

The Senate is currently considering legislation approved by the lower National Assembly that would reduce France's world-leading reliance on nuclear from more than 75 percent to 50 percent within a decade.

EDF is ready to invest some 55 billion euros ($65 billion) through 2025 to modernise its reactors.

Royal, in an interview published Tuesday in the trade magazine Usine Nouvelle, said the company's supervisory board had approved the investment project with her support.

EDF, the world's largest nuclear plant operator, is 85 percent state-owned.

Levy did not confirm that the board had approved the investment project, saying only that it has been consulted.

He said EDF had not yet begun talks with France's nuclear safety regulator, which has to approve extensions for each reactor separately, but planned to do so soon.

That bill, which the Senate is expected to vote on next month, would also cap production of electricity from nuclear reactors at 63.2 gigawatts, meaning the construction of any new power plant would require putting an old plant into retirement.

Thus when EDF launches its next-generation pressurised water reactor in Flamanville in 2017, two other reactors will need to be retired.

While EDF and Areva are leaders in the nuclear energy industry, France's Socialist government has been committed to reducing the country's dependence on the power source in favour of renewables and campaigned on closing the country's oldest reactors.

Environmentalist groups have criticised the shift in the government's position, saying renewable electricity would be cheaper.

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© 2015 AFP

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