France's Nuclear Fleet Is Running at Less Than Half Capacity

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More than half of French nuclear reactors are currently off line. Explanations include postponed maintenance following the pandemic, extended outages for planned 10-year inspections across the fleet's oldest half, plus unexpected corrosion issues in newer reactors. In addition, an early heat wave is likely to force EDF to reduce output at several plants located on rivers too warm to ensure proper cooling. EDF’s use of river water as coolant is regulated by law to protect plant and animal life. “All these events are leading to the situation we were fearing, where tensions could generate conflicts between nuclear safety and grid reliability,” the Nuclear Safety Authority’s boss Bernard Doroszczuk recently warned. By end April, less than 30 gigawatts out of France’s 61 GW nuclear fleet were available, or some 10-15 GW below a “normal” month of May, according to transmission system operator RTE. France’s nuclear generation could fall below 300 terawatt hours in 2022 according to EDF, down from 361 TWh in 2021 and almost 450 TWh in the early 2000s.

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