PARIS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - French utility EDF is carry out planned improvements costing 20 million euros ($26 million) at its Fessenheim nuclear power plant to allow it to continue operating until its scheduled closure at the end of 2016, a spokeswoman said.
France's nuclear watchdog ASN said in July 2011 EDF should raise the concrete base of its Fessenheim reactor 1, in eastern France, before mid-2013 to prevent leaks in case of a nuclear disaster, or else face a shutdown.
"We are in the process of building a life-size model for the sill plate which will raise the reactor by 80 centimetres," the spokeswoman said on Monday.
Post-Fukushima related works, which are compulsory before 2018, are also likely to be carried out before 2016, she said.
ASN told EDF in January to improve the safety of nuclear facilities so they can withstand the kind of extreme shocks that triggered the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year.
EDF said it had invested 380 million euros in new equipment in the plant's reactor 2, including the replacement of three steam generators.
French President Francois Hollande said last week he wanted to close Fessenheim, the country's oldest plant and located near the German border -- at the end of 2016, bringing the closure forward by several months.
Hollande also renewed a pledge to cut the country's reliance on nuclear power to 50 percent of the electricity mix, from 75 percent.
The 1,800-megawatt Fessenheim nuclear plant is unpopular due to its age and location in an earthquake zone and has attracted mounting media attention since Hollande announced in his electoral pledge he planned to shut it down.
While two much-publicised incidents in 2012 put the 34-year old plant in the limelight, other much more recent plants, such as Gravelines in northern France, recorded 10 minor incidents this year.
ASN was expected to say in the next few months whether it will allow reactor 2 to continue operating for another 10 years, given that it will, de facto, have to close in 2016. ($1 = 0.7612 euro) (Reporting by Muriel Boselli and Axelle Du Crest; Editing by Dan Lalor) (firstname.lastname@example.org; +33149495270)